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December 16, 2017

Asbestos halts work on roof replacement at Science and Technology Museum

The Canada Science and Technology Museum has halted work on replacing its roof after asbestos was discovered in roofing materials in the nearly 50-year-old building.

The museum discovered earlier this month, on the first day of the renovation project, that cement in the roof had a one-per-cent concentration of asbestos, said Fernand Proulx, the interim president and CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation.

“As we started taking some of the membrane off, we notice some of the materials didn’t look quite like concrete,” Proulx said Friday.

When testing confirmed the presence of asbestos, the museum corporation halted work and brought in Stantec Consulting Ltd. to test air quality, beginning the evening of Oct. 16.

The tests did not detect the presence of asbestos fibre, and showed only “minimal or non-existent particulate readings, well below required standards,” the corporation said in a news release.

Proulx said the museum is now conducting air quality tests on a regular basis. “We’ve had zero traces at this point and we’re monitoring it,” he said.

The museum plans to reseal the roof over the next two or three days and postpone the roof replacement for several months while it figures out how to proceed, Proulx said. “Because of the asbestos, we’re going to have to have a different approach to take (the old roof) out.”

While Proulx stressed there was no risk to museum visitors or staff, he said the problem will cause “a little disturbance” in the museum, with plastic protecting some of the artifacts. He doesn’t expect the problem to interfere with the public’s ability to visit the museum.

“If through any kind of adjustments to the ceiling there was any kind of risk where the air quality was diminished, we’d have to take other actions at that point,” he said. “But we’re pretty confident we can manage it.”

The St. Laurent Boulevard museum is housed in a former bakery warehouse that is needs $3.4 million in major structural repairs, according to the museum corporation’s 2013-14 budget.

The budget estimated the cost of the roof replacement at $2.5 million, but Proulx said that is likely to rise because of the asbestos problem.

He said it may be possible to do “a little bit” of the work on the roof before the summer if the museum corporation decides to do it in phases. “With all the tourists, it’s not the kind of construction you want to have in a peak summer season,” he said.

dbutler@ottawacitizen.com

twitter.com/ButlerDon

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Asbestos halts work on roof replacement at Science and Technology Museum

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