Asbestos test results prompted University of Montana officials to abruptly close an entire campus building Thursday morning.
UM’s McGill Hall, located south of the university’s swimming pool and art annex is now closed until further notice.
Blaze orange notices taped to all the building’s doors caution "Authorized Personnel Only: Wear Respiratory Protection and Protective Clothing In This Area.” Asbestos is known to cause a variety of serious lung diseases, including cancer and mesothelioma.
Zac Allen is a UM senior studying journalism. Allen had a midday directing class scheduled in McGill on Thursday.
“Yeah, I’m trying to figure out where I’m going to go now."
All classes, labs and other activities in McGill are canceled until further notice. UM first discovered asbestos in a second-floor office suite in December. That area was sealed off for cleanup.
Testing of a separate air handling system serving a preschool in the building found asbestos, but experts concluded the air was safe to breathe. Tuesday night UM said further testing of surface particulates revealed "unacceptable levels of asbestos." Parents and employees were notified, and on Wednesday the preschool was relocated on campus.
Additional test results received Thursday morning indicated the presence of asbestos in several locations throughout the building. McGill Hall’s roughly 70 employees were told to leave all their office materials and personal belongings in the building until they can be properly cleaned.
Student Zac Allen hopes UM officials are being transparent about the situation and are doing everything possible to ensure public safety.
“Obviously, it’s something you don't really want to mess with, so I’m hoping that they let us know as soon as they found out. And hoping there’s nothing really too harmful with it, from a student standpoint.”
Students Cole Pine and Sterling Reneau, who both have classes in McGill tell MTPR they think UM is doing a good job of explaining the situation. Both seem nonplussed by the revelations of asbestos contamination.
McGill’s closure will likely continue for at least the next two weeks. UM plans an informational meeting and update Friday at noon in the UC Theater.