The asbestos-containing insulation has been removed, and U.S. Department of Energy employees and contractors started a month-long move back into the Joe L. Evins Federal Building this week, a spokesman said Wednesday.
The move back into the five-story building should be complete by the end of September, said Ben Williams, public affairs specialist for the DOE Oak Ridge Office.
Office space has been modified, and the building can now house about 440 workers, an increase of about 90 employees. The light construction work has included moving walls. The telecommunications system was also upgraded while everyone was out of the building, Williams said.
There were roughly 350 federal employees and contractors at the Federal Building when it was shut down in June 2012 after an inspection found insulation with asbestos had fallen into heating and cooling ducts. Many of the workers had to temporarily move elsewhere while the U.S. General Services Administration, which owns the 155,000-square-foot building, removed the insulation. In addition to DOE employees and contractors, the Federal Building has also housed a district office for U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.
The office space changes will allow the local DOE Environmental Management organization, which had been in the nearby Building 2714, to move into the Federal Building.
Meanwhile, Safety and Technical Services, an organization that had been in the Federal Building, will move into Building 2714. They will be joined there by the DOE Office of Inspector General, which had previously been in leased space. The moves into 2714 might not be complete until November or December, Williams said.
In January, GSA awarded a $2.5 million contract to Katmai Support Services LLC of Alaska to abate and remove the asbestos-containing material in the Federal Building. Williams said GSA completed the work on July 1.
“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,” said Saudia Muwwakkil, GSA regional public affairs officer. She said the work affected about 92 percent of the facility.
In February, Mike Koentop, a DOE spokesman in Oak Ridge, 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. Some employees worked in leased commercial space at 545 Oak Ridge Turnpike, Koentop said. Emergency operations continued to run in the Federal Building’s basement.
Last year, 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.