Romig Middle School was built in 1963, immediately adjacent to West High School on Romig Hill. The school was named for Joseph H. Romig, a doctor and missionary who served as Mayor of Anchorage from 1937 to 1938. Romig Middle School and West High School (formerly Anchorage High School) share a common library. West High School was constructed prior to Romig, in 1953. In 1964, the magnitude 9.2 Good Friday earthquake demolished most of West’s second floor.
At the time of Romig and West’s construction, asbestos was a common building material. Useful for fireproofing, soundproofing and insulation, asbestos found its way into most large institutional buildings constructed in the United States prior to the late 1970s. The most dangerous types of asbestos-containing materials are friable, meaning they crumble easily when disturbed. Friable materials may disintegrate into small fibers which can then be inhaled. In school buildings, the EPA lists boiler wrap, pipe wrap insulation, ceiling tiles and wall board among the most likely friable materials.
The Anchorage School District conducted an asbestos detection program to identify possible sources of exposure, beginning in 1979. The district found friable materials at West High School (as well as other schools.) Although asbestos can sometimes be encapsulated to prevent disturbance of friable materials, an Asbestos Technical Advisory Panel recommended removal, for the following reasons:
- Encapsulation materials require continual inspection and repair
- Water damage and vandalism may expose asbestos anyway
- Earth tremors may shake fibers loose despite encapsulation
- Civil liability is greater if any asbestos remains in the buildings
- Detailed records would have to be maintained concerning contact with asbestos for the life of the buildings
Asbestos removal at West High School was conducted in the summer of 1984.
Workers at West High School and Romig Junior High (later Romig Middle School) may have come into contact with asbestos at a variety of times: during the building process, following the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, during asbestos removal, or while asbestos materials remained in the building. Although some of the risks of asbestos exposure were understood in the early decades of the twentieth century, the Anchorage School District continued to use it as a building material throughout the mid-century school construction boom years, placing its workers at risk of serious harm. If you believe that you are experiencing health consequences of possible exposure to asbestos at Romig or West schools, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Bergman Draper Oslund today, for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.