Although the discovery of asbestos, mercury and other dangerous materials prompted the long-term shutdown of San Francisco State University’s Science Building, there is likely no health risk to people who used the building, school officials said today.
SFSU held a town hall meeting at its McKenna Theatre this afternoon following the release of the latest reports on the closure of the Science Building, which contains labs, classrooms and lecture halls.
A routine inspection of the three-story building in December found potentially dangerous levels of asbestos, mercury, lead, arsenic and other substances. School officials hoped to reopen the building after winter break but announced last month that it would stay closed throughout the spring semester.
SFSU president Les Wong said at today’s meeting that the closure has displaced 6,000 students, 250 faculty and staff members and prompted the relocation or cancellation of more than 235 class sections.
“It’s obviously a significant issue for the campus,” Wong said while thanking the SFSU community for its patience.
Patricia Beach, a certified industrial hygienist introduced by Wong, told the crowd that tests showed the possibly dangerous substances were at levels far below regulatory maximums.
“I don’t think there’s much to worry about if you worked in this building,” Beach said.
Wong, the school’s president, acknowledged that the relocation of students and faculty to other buildings has “come with a lot of warts,” from a lack of chairs and tables to inadequate private space for faculty to meet with students.
Several faculty members complained that they were rushed out of the building when it closed in December and have not been able to go back inside to get files and other teaching materials.
Maarten Golterman, a physics professor said he is “extremely critical of how it’s been handled.”
“It’s a direct result of what I would call gross mismanagement by the university,” Golterman said.
Ron Cortez, SFSU’s vice president of administration and finance, said crews are continuing to work on removing the dangerous substances. The school expects to know by the end of the month exactly what the scope of the cleanup and repairs will be.
Other sites on campus, including the Business, Creative Arts and Fine Arts buildings, will also undergo environmental assessments next week to ensure they do not contain similar substances, Cortez said.
The latest information about the building can be found on the school’s website at http://buildingclosure.sfsu.edu.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News