Town hall riddled with asbestos

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo Hay River's town hall has been closed for the foreseeable future as a result of a mold problem in the ventilation system.

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo
Hay River’s town hall has been closed for the foreseeable future as a result of a mold problem in the ventilation system.

Two weeks after white mould was discovered at Hay River’s town hall, the municipality is still functioning out of other locations and looking at options for either remediation or relocation.

“Council has been talking about it, and one way or another, it’s looking like there’s going to be an investment needed,” Mayor Andrew Cassidy told The Hub.

However, a report to council last week showed that any remediation project would be no simple matter. The report, prepared by director of protective services Ross Potter, indicated asbestos is present throughout the building and would complicate any attempts to access the ventilation system, where the mould was found.

The report states that during preliminary conversations with external consultants – Stantec Inc. architects and engineers and  Northern Disaster Services have both been in talks with the town – “it was impressed upon us that there is no such thing as a limited mould remediation.”

“The whole building will have to be assessed and all mould will be remediated. At present, without any invasive investigation we have visually identified mould in the heating and ventilation system, gypsum board in the lower level of the basement and ceiling area above the council chambers.”

Potter explained last week that remediation would mean taking apart the ventilation system to clean it, which would necessitate breaking the concrete pad containing asbestos to get to parts of it. However, the report also identified the hazardous material in the insulation around the ventilation pipes, as well as the drywall throughout most of the building.

“Most of the building has asbestos-based drywall compound so any drywall removal will have to be done under an asbestos abatement program,” it reads. “In areas where mould has been identified, this will probably entail total removal of all the gypsum board.”

Regulators, including the GWNT and the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission, typically require a whole-building approach, meaning that the problem can’t be tackled in only one area of the affected structure. When walls are taken down and pipes exposed, it will also expose out-dated electrical systems that will then legally need to be brought up to code.

For now, Cassidy said no decisions have been made as to the future of the current town hall building. The mould was discovered July 7 as a result of an employee looking to eliminate environmental causes of an illness. When the heat registers were found to contain standing water and the ventilation system white mould, employees were sent home for the rest of the day and relocated to the new fire hall and the Don Stewart Recreation Centre the following day.

While Northern Disaster Services were contracted to conduct the initial tests, Cassidy said Stantec Inc. architects and engineers had been in the building last week to conduct a more thorough investigation but had yet to present their results as of late last week.

“Whether we proceed with a remediation plan or if that’s too expensive, look at options for relocation,” he said. “We’re waiting for results from further tests.”

-Sarah Ladik