Asbestos forces school closure in Amqui –


The recent discovery of asbestos is forcing a school board in the Lower St. Lawrence to relocate the majority of its students.

It was detected above the library at Polyvalente Armand-St-Onge in September, following the cleaning of the school’s air vents.

The school board says it immediately shut down the library, and ordered a thorough test for the entire school.

School officials contacted the workplace health and safety board, the CNESST.

“Asbestos is problematic when it’s found as a form of crumbly dust and over long periods,” said CNESST spokesperson Maxime Boucher.

Polyvalente Armand-Saint-Onge will remain closed until the asbestos is safely removed. (Jean-François Deschênes/Radio-Canada)

“For now, the air tests performed in the building did not show levels which exceeded standards,” said Boucher.

But, Monday’s test results showed there was asbestos present in other areas of the school, forcing the closure of most of the building.

In total, 600 students will be relocated to five surrounding schools in Amqui and nearby Causapscal.

This will require the school board to reassess its school transport, which will be modified to accommodate the relocation of students.

Asbestos could date back to construction

Both the CNESST and the Monts-et-Marées School Board reckon the presence of asbestos in the building dates all the way back to its construction.

“Back then, in 1968, asbestos was used to insulate and was applied through a spraying process,” said Marthe Émond, executive director of Monts-et-Marées School Board.

Asbestos is a mineral that was once used for a wide variety of construction applications, due mainly to its fire resistance and widespread availability. Its use fell out of favour toward the end of the 20th century as mounting evidence started to show that inhaling asbestos dust can cause cancer and lung disease.

Émond confirmed the affected part of the building will remain closed until the asbestos has been safely removed.

The Monts-et-Marées School Board is currently seeking a contractor who can carry out the work. It hopes to announce a deadline for the work to be completed in the coming days.

Émond said it’s unknown at this time how much the asbestos removal will cost.

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