Work crews are wrapping up a four-month project to clean up and remove asbestos-containing insulation from the Joe L. Evins Federal Building in Oak Ridge, and displaced federal workers and contractors could move back into the building next month, a spokeswoman said Friday.
“We have reached the final stage of the project and expect to have the building available to tenants in May,” said Saudia Muwwakkil, regional public affairs officer for the U.S. General Services Administration, which owns the building.
There have been about 350 workers in the five-story building, which is home to the U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Office as well as a district office for U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann. The workers include roughly 200 federal employees and close to 150 contractors.
In June, a semiannual inspection found insulation with asbestos had fallen into heating and cooling units. Many of the workers had to temporarily move elsewhere while the GSA removed the insulation.
In January, GSA awarded a $2.5 million contract to Katmai Support Services LLC of Alaska to abate and remove the asbestos-containing material. The project was scheduled to end this month.
“The project included removal of asbestos-containing material from HVAC fan coils and pipe chases, demolition and construction of affected wall partitions, and surface cleaning on floors, ceilings and walls,” Muwwakkil said in an e-mail earlier this week. She said it affected about 92 percent of the facility.
A separate $80,000 contract was awarded to industrial hygienist Synergy Solutions to conduct independent testing, inspection, and verification of the abatement, ensuring compliance with state regulations, Muwwakkil said.
During part of the project, there was a white tent erected in front of the building. Muwwakkil said the contractor used it as a workshop to make metal ductwork that replaced some vertical ducts in the building.
On Friday, Mike Koentop, a DOE spokesman in Oak Ridge, said the department will “continue to work with GSA to develop a schedule to move back into the Federal Building.”
In February, Koentop said some workers have been temporarily housed in other federal space at Building 2714-G on Laboratory Road and at the Office of Scientific and Technical Information in east Oak Ridge. Emergency operations continued to run in the Federal Building’s basement.
Some employees worked in leased commercial space at 545 Oak Ridge Turnpike, where Oak Ridge National Laboratory used to have offices, Koentop said.
Koentop said then that the rent at 545 Oak Ridge Turnpike was $46,667 per month, and it was $5,678 per month at OSTI. DOE normally pays $120,000 per month to rent the Federal Building, but the department can fit all of its employees into the 155,000-square-foot building, making it much more efficient, Koentop said.
In June, officials said air samples from the Federal Building suggested that no employees were exposed to asbestos from the loose insulation that had fallen into heating and cooling ducts.