Asbestos delays reopening of Jefferson gym


Sports editor

The Thomas Jefferson volleyball team is getting used to the daily drive to nearby Totem Middle School. The members of the Raider varsity and junior varsity teams have been forced to practice and play matches at Totem after approximately 40 gallons of water spewed from a joint in the sprinkler water line inside the gymnasium the first part of August, warping the hardwood floor from baseline to baseline.

“It has been really working out well at Totem,” said Jefferson Athletic Director Mike Grady. “Totem has just been great. They have been very, very cooperative.”

But the cooperation is extending a little longer than expected. Jefferson students won’t be able to get into the gym until mid-October, officials said. The school district had planned to open up the gym at the end of this month.

Work crews installing the new maple floor in the gymnasium found asbestos in the mastic, or adhesive, that held the old wood floor to the concrete foundation in the gym, according to Rod Leland, the district’s maintenance and facilities manager.

“The asbestos was encapsulated in asphalt,” he said. “It just held stuff together.”

The district was required to call in specialists to remove the material. The gym was sealed off during the process and air tests are required before, during and after the mastic is taken away. The material was not the asbestos insulation that can cause health problems when inhaled into the lungs after being disturbed. The adhesive was actually hauled away in plastic bags and sent to a landfill.

“It is not the space suit process that we have all seen,” Leland said.

Plumbers were installing valves on a water pipe and turned off the water supply to do the work. When they turned the water back on, the workers didn’t notice the leak — until it was too late.

“It was an ugly situation,” Leland said.

Workers attempted to clean up the water and fix just the damaged sections, but the floor continued to warp. The buckling was so bad that crews were forced to tear up the wood.

“It only takes about a week and a half for them to lay down the floor,” Leland said. “But it takes about two weeks to seal it and get all the lines down.”

The school district’s insurance policy will be covering the $100,000 pricetag for replacing the gym floor, along with the asbestos removal.

The inconvenience to the Jefferson volleyball team isn’t the only group being affected by the gym closure. The gym is the biggest gathering place for physical education classes. Teachers use the facility as a spot to take attendance, as well as activities like basketball, volleyball and other daily lessons. Instructors have been fortunate with the nice weather in the Puget Sound, meaning they could take their classes outdoors.

“We’ll see what happens,” Grady said.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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