Hazards Stem from Construction

By Jamie Rapciewicz in News

The STEM project’s west wing is being prepared for the first ground floor slab. The project recently faced a four-week delay, however the project is still projected to be finished by the summer of 2016. (Kamerin Johnson / The Independent)

The STEM project’s west wing is being prepared for the first ground floor slab. The project recently faced a four-week delay, however the project is still projected to be finished by the summer of 2016. (Kamerin Johnson/ The Independent)

Four months ago it was hard to imagine anything other than piles of dirt and yellow construction vehicles occupying the space of Clark’s future Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math building.

Now the site across the street from Gaiser Hall has a clear shape. The piles of dirt have depleted, the basement level walls are built and construction began on the ground floor slab.

Construction appears to be booming. However, STEM Project Manager Jim Watkins said the project faced a four-week setback.

“We had what’s called latent conditions,” said Watkins. “By definition it is not something we can anticipate.”

“We had some hazardous materials in the ground at the building site that had to be remediated before we could continue construction,” Watkins said.

Watkins believes one of those materials is asbestos.

Asbestos is a natural mineral that has many desirable properties in industrial applications such as fireproofing. It was commonly used in past decades, but is now heavily regulated because human exposure can lead to cancer.

Watkins believes the asbestos is from remnants of the Vancouver military barracks. The barracks occupied the land until 2000 when Clark took ownership.

Watkins said they found shingles containing asbestos and black mastic, which was used in the ‘50s to hold tiles down. They also found harmless materials such as a woman’s high-button boot, a radio and a bottle filled with liquid.

The asbestos has been removed from the upper layer of the ground, but Watkins said they may find more once they build the utility trenches.

Even with the four-week delay Watkins said he is still confident the building will be operational by summer 2016. Clark plans to offer a few classes that quarter, but the official building will not be officially opened until fall.

Watkins said the project is on schedule with possible caveats. If the project has problems with subcontractors or materials, it could affect the budget and time schedule.

“Sometimes there are certain circumstances you can’t account for.”

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