General Services Administration safety officials have agreed to seek more than $250,000 in emergency funds to have asbestos insulation in six Washington-area federal buildings covered or removed, following an outcry from federal employes concerned about their safety.
Peter R. Gillson, GSA's regional safety supervisor, said a contractor would be chosen within 30 days, and the work to eliminate any possible hazard from the asbestos--which is believed to cause cancer and lung disease--would be completed within five months.
Over the next several weeks, Gillson said, his staff will meet with building managers and agency officials at the six buildings to determine the extent of the problem. The work could ultimately cost up to $750,000, he said.
The buildings involved include: the garage of the Bethesda Federal Building at 7550 Wisconsin Ave.; the Commerce Department headquarters at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW; the NASA/Education Department headquarters at 400 Maryland Ave. SW; a Food and Drug Administration office at Second and C streets SW; GSA's headquarters at 18th and E streets NW; and the U.S. Navy Annex near the Pentagon.
GSA Wednesday released a list of 35 federal buildings nationwide that had the most significant asbestos problem. Published accounts of that list triggered a flood of concerned phone calls from workers in the six area buildings, officials said.
James A. Hawkins, GSA's regional safety and accident director, said "we were swamped with calls" yesterday morning.
"I was somewhat shocked when I read" about the list, said Peter K. Hatt, chief of administration for NASA, which has workers in one of the listed buildings.
"We are deeply concerned and plan to follow it on a day-by-day basis," Hatt said. "I can assure you that NASA will exert as much pressure as necessary to get them to fix up the problem sooner rather than later."
Navy employes at an intelligence center in Suitland and General Accounting Office officials also called, worried about their safety. In Suitland, the Navy faces emergency GSA clean-up work after asbestos was found in the flooring of a room where a computer is being installed. At GAO, asbestos is being removed as part of a building renovation project.
Public Building Commissioner Richard O. Haase said test readings showed asbestos levels in the air were far below danger levels in all 2,500 federal buildings nationwide, including the problem sites identified on the list.
Haase said that GSA "is a responsible agent, and we have an active and aggressive abatement program" under way. He said he would look into the status of each of the 35 listed buildings over the next month to see if corrective action was being taken in each case.
"We're absolutely going to move ahead if there's a danger," Haase said.