Asbestos removal is a slow but steady process at 2 Philly high schools

Science Leadership Academy gets ready to move into Ben Franklin High School
Photo credit Mike DeNardo/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As displaced students at Ben Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy move to temporary new homes, asbestos removal teams in the building continue their work to meet a January deadline. 

It is a tedious, step-by-step project, according to Stephen Petit, business manager of Asbestos Workers Local 14.

"Right now they're just trying to get the air clean," explained Petit, "using what's called a negative air system. They pretty much contain the whole area, suck all the air out through a vent. So once the air is clean throughout the whole school, then we'll go in the boiler room and start removing the asbestos."

The actual asbestos removal process is even more time-consuming. 

"It's not where you just go in, rip it all down and sweep it all up," said Petit. "They take it off one piece at a time, place it in a bag and carry it to a dumpster. And it's double-bagged."

The union said Ben Franklin is only the tip of the asbestos iceberg, claiming that the toxic insulation fibers can be found in about 150 school district buildings. Asbestos is known to cause diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and COPD. Local 14 believes that, in most cases, asbestos gets dislodged by unknowing building maintenance workers.