Survey to determine extent of asbestos issue

It will be at least another few days before the Salmon Arm and Shuswap Lake Agricultural Association knows

Closed to the public: The SASCU Indoor Memorial Complex cannot be used until asbestos remediation is complete.

Closed to the public: The SASCU Indoor Memorial Complex cannot be used until asbestos remediation is complete.

It will be at least another few days before the Salmon Arm and Shuswap Lake Agricultural Association knows what it will have to do to fix the asbestos problems in the SASCU Indoor Memorial Complex.

Phil Wright, president of the association which owns and operates the facility, said they have retained a firm to conduct sample testing and do a complete survey of the building for asbestos-related problems, and offer recommendations for what remediation work will  need to take place.

“It’s going to take at least until the end of the week and then we will have  a report detailing the risks and what we can do about it,” said Wright. “Then we will look at budgets and what help we might need.”

Wright said the issue appears to be with the cinder blocks in the facility. Deterioration has caused crumbling and this has exposed some asbestos.

The complete closure of the building took place March 22 after Interior Health reviewed the situation with the executive of the association, which also runs the Salmon Arm Fall Fair.

Health Canada states breathing in asbestos fibres can cause cancer and other respiratory diseases. Asbestos is present in many older buildings, but is not considered hazardous unless it is exposed to the air.

Colleen Ingram, the association’s administrator, says the situation began a few weeks ago when one of the tenants using the building went into a storage room and noticed material on the floor that was suspected to be asbestos.

The tenant reported this to the association and the grounds manager had the substance tested. Ingram says the samples came back positive for asbestos approximately two weeks ago.

At that point, the association contacted a restoration company and taped off affected areas with plastic. For part of that time, tenants continued to use the facility. Following consultation with Interior Health last week, the indoor arena building is now closed to public access and all the user groups had to be re-located.

“While the association was already moving to take appropriate action, we advised them it was best to not use the facility at all. From our point of view, we want to do everything possible to minimize the risk of exposure to the public,” says Juliana Gola team leader with Interior Health’s environmental health program.

Gola says Interior Health received information about the positive test for asbestos from a member of the public and followed it up. She says the association was already letting user groups know of the situation and was taking the appropriate steps.

Ingram says the timing is somewhat fortunate, as many of the user groups would be moving to outdoor fields, but there is concern about how long repairs might take.

“We do have some time before the fair would be an issue, but we have to wait until we have a plan to go forward,” says Ingram.

Gola says once the remediation work is complete, Interior Health will follow up to ensure the building is safe for public use.

A number of youth and adult soccer groups, as well as archery, make use of the facility on a regular basis.

Kevin Harrison, executive director of Shuswap Youth Soccer, says their group has also cancelled all soccer practices for this week and will be working to reschedule all events planned for the indoor facility.

“Until the board is 100 per cent convinced there is zero risk of hazardous exposure to our children we will not be entering the building,” he said.