This article has been updated to reflect the version that ran in print on March 23.
The Saybrook College dining hall reopened to students Sunday evening. And yet only a week before, the dining hall was being cleared of traces of asbestos.
Last month, a sprinkler head pipe in the ceiling broke and flooded the dining room, causing damage to the floor so severe that the entire floor needed to be replaced, Saybrook Master Paul Hudak wrote in an email to Saybrook students on Friday. Prior to removing the floor, Yale’s Environmental Health and Safety Department discovered traces of asbestos — a group of minerals that can increase the risk of cancer — in an adhesive used for installing the floor, prompting the dining hall to be sealed during its removal over Spring Break. Still, University spokesman Tom Conroy said the facility did not pose a risk to students.
“As the floor had not been disturbed, no asbestos hazard existed,” Conroy wrote in an email.
Saybrook, along with all dining halls except Stiles, Morse, Trumbull, Calhoun and Silliman, has been closed for spring break since March 6. Since there was not enough time during the recess to remove and replace the floor, the concrete underneath the damaged wood was painted temporarily and sealed until summer, Hudak added.
While the wood floor was removed, the entrance to the Saybrook dining hall was insulated with red tape and a plastic covering, with a danger sign warning students, faculty and staff from entering the restricted area.
Albert Jiao ’16, a student in Saybrook College who posted a photo of the doorway on Facebook, said he saw the sign on Sunday, March 8 after his suitemate had come across it. He said the University’s response likely indicates that the situation is under control.
“If there was truly a problem, they would definitely have that entire [common room] area blocked off and we would not know about it,” he said.
Two other Saybrook students interviewed after the dining hall’s closure said they were surprised they had not received any prior notice from the college.
Saybrook resident Apitha Srivicharnkul ’17 said the problem in the dining hall may be reflective of larger issues with the state of the Saybrook building infrastructure.
“As much as I love Saybrook, I must admit that the overall quality of our facilities is rather abysmal,” she said.
All nine students interviewed in Saybrook on Sunday evening said the detection of asbestos did not influence their decision about eating in Saybrook.
“I just figured it would be safe since they sent out that email,” Bertie Geng ’16 said. “Asbestos is fine unless you disturb it.”
Three students, however, said the temporary concrete flooring was not ideal.
Though Conroy stressed there is not an asbestos hazard for students, Director of Residential Dining Cathy Van Dyke said she does not know whether similar asbestos-containing adhesives have been used in other dining halls across campus. Other Yale Facilities representatives could not be reached for comment.
Cases of asbestos within the University are managed by the Asbestos Operations and Maintenance Program, which is coordinated by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety. The office’s website states that the program is managed by certified safety and health professionals.
“This program is designed to ensure that [material that contains asbestos] is appropriately managed on campus to meet federal and state regulatory requirements as well as to minimize potential health risks to the University community,” the website states.
All residential college dining halls reopened for regular service with dinner on Sunday, March 22.