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Haverhill School Library Destroyed by Flooding and Asbestos

According to recent news feature from CBS Boston, a busted water pipe at Consentino Middle School in Haverhill, Massachusetts has caused major damage.  Students were not present due to a winter vacation, which is becoming more common as New England schools save on heating costs.

rustypipes-300x225School officials say the pipe burst unexpectedly and no less than tens of thousands of gallons of water came rushing out into the school’s library. The reason the pipe burst was because a heating coil installed to prevent the pipes from freezing malfunctioned.  It froze and stopped working, and the water inside the pipe froze.  When the frozen water expanded it caused the pipe to crack.  At this point, the water in the pipe thawed from the heat in the library, and the water came rushing out.

The initial problem was the damage to the library and all of its contents.  School officials say that library was completely destroyed and over 2,000 books were ruined as well.  The principal says the community is devastated and there is no telling when the library will reopen.   However, it is not just the library that will be closed, as the water had released or otherwise exposed what may be a significant amount of asbestos into what’s left of the library.

The school was built during the 1960s at a time when asbestos was heavily used in many phases of the residential and commercial construction process.  In this case, asbestos was not only used as a wall joint compound, as was very common, but also as the primary insulation material in the ceiling. When the water came into the room, it caused the walls to collapse, which exposed the asbestos in the ceiling.

Asbestos that was used as insulation is among the most dangerous types of asbestos, because it was spun into loose fibers that were able to crumble and fall out.  When asbestos is capable of being crumbled by the pressure of a human hand, it is known as friable asbestos.  The reason friable asbestos is the most dangerous form of asbestos, other than pure powder form, is because it is constantly giving off dust, which victims can inhale. You may be wondering why anyone would make pure asbestos powder, but the incredible reason was because it was sold as fake snow for holiday decorations and people could spread it around themselves.  The reason this was so bad was because the companies were well aware it could cause a rare form of cancer known as malignant pleural mesothelioma.

However, these companies also knew that it would take between 20 and 50 years for people to become noticeably sick with mesothelioma to the point they would go to a doctor and find out.  This meant they would not be facing any mesothelioma lawsuits for many years, and they could make a lot of profit in the meantime.  One a patient begins to experience shortness of breath, abdominal pain, and other symptoms of malignant mesothelioma, they are usually told they only have a very short period of time left to live, as the disease is often in a very advanced stage.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional resources:

Broken Water Pipe Destroys Library At Haverhill School, February 17, 2016, CBS Boston, By Liam Martin

More Blog Entries:

Can Family of Asbestos Workers Sue for Illness?, September 15, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog