February 18, 2019

Asbestos delays demolition of old Billings library

Like most Billings residents, Bill Cochran thought he’d be seeing the old Parmly Billings Library coming down by now, making way for a 100-space parking lot, new entrance for the library and considerable landscaping just outside the library’s Community Room.

“Things haven’t happened as quickly as we’ve been telling people they would happen,” Cochran, the Billings library director, said Tuesday.

The discovery of what’s called non-friable asbestos in the fifth floor of the old library is contributing to the project delay of up to a month, Cochran said. 

Non-friable asbestos isn’t harmful because its fibers are bound and thus not a breathing hazard.

“There were small amounts in unexpected places — tars and window gaskets — things that ordinarily would have been demolished and taken to the landfill,” Cochran said. “Considerably more caution is being exercised.”

Northern Industrial Hygiene of Billings tested the window gasket and found it contained a small amount of non-friable asbestos.

“It won’t come loose, and it’s not dangerous,” he said, “but it does have to be removed.”

Other factors have contributed to the delay, Cochran said. A sub-contractor expecting its asbestos abatement duties to have been completed by now allowed a state license to expire; renewing the license involves a mandatory 10-day review period, Cochran said.

Without work to do at the site, contractors and sub-contractors are turning their attention to other projects, he said.

The demolition, being done by LM Excavating of Columbia Falls, will restart next week, Cochran said. The demolition work uses green principles in accordance with the new library’s LEED Gold building certification. LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

As the building comes down, clean materials like brick and concrete are separated from rebar — and, of course, from asbestos, wherever it’s found. The clean fill will be used in a boulder pit that will allow water taken from the new library’s roof to irrigate the landscaping.

The clean fill sits in neatly-stacked piles just west of the old library.

LM Excavating is expected on Monday to erect additional protective measures to ensure that as the old library comes down it does no damage to the new building. After that, the demolition can resume in earnest, with completion expected in late July. 

Cochran said a celebration upon culmination of the work is still being planned.

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Asbestos delays demolition of old Billings library

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