October 22nd, 2016

Barre Court House Closed for Asbestos Testing

Out of an abundance of caution, the Barre Court House building will be closed for the rest of this week. The move comes after tests by Department of Building and General Services indicated the presence of vermiculite that contains low levels of asbestos in certain parts of the building.

The material, which appeared to be undisturbed, was discovered last weekend, when ceiling tiles were removed during an electrical installation. Tests results were sent to BGS last night.

While it is not clear that these positive tests results pose an immediate health risk to individuals, the courthouse has been closed and will remain closed until further tests can be conducted.

“Preliminary test results confirm that material found in the ceiling contain low levels of asbestos fibers,” Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson said. “We need to have access to the building to test the work areas and fixtures to determine if that contamination goes beyond the ceiling cavity.”

In the course of doing electrical work in the courthouse on Thursday, the Department of Buildings and General Services discovered small amounts of suspect material. Upon discovery, the work was suspended and testing was ordered, which occurred on Saturday. Results received late Monday indicated the substance was vermiculite, an insulation that can contain asbestos. Seven testing samples revealed that the vermiculate contained low levels of asbestos fibers.

Asbestos is a health concern only if it is disturbed, causing fibers too small to be seen to float in the air and be easily breathed in.

“There is no indication at this point that employees or visitors to the building have been exposed to asbestos fibers, but further testing is needed to determine whether there is a problem that requires remediation,” said Health Commissioner Harry Chen, MD. “We should have more information to report in a few days.”

The Health Department has an asbestos regulatory program, and will be working closely with State Buildings staff. When confirmed or suspect asbestos containing materials are discovered in a building system, it is important that it is not physically disturbed in a manner that creates airborne dust. The Washington County Criminal and Family Court in Barre will be closed until a full assessment can be conducted to determine the extent of contamination, if any.

State Buildings staff are working closely with the Judiciary, the Agency of Human Services, and the Vermont State Employees Association to minimize disruption to both state employees and the public.

“The length of the closure will depend on further test results, Secretary Johnson said. “In the event that the closure will be longer than a few days we will work with all the affected departments to put into place contingency plans.”

Vermonters who have appointments at the courthouse in the next few days should call the numbers below to find out where they should go.

Washington County Court House, Montpelier: 828-2091
States’ Attorney’s: 479-4220
Probation and parole: 888-2520

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