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Umpqua Community College has postponed its use of the Flegel Center in downtown Roseburg for student housing after concerns about lead dust were raised. The Flegel Center is a former National Guard Armory.

Tests revealed lead dust on the first floor of the Flegel Center, which was scheduled to be used for housing Umpqua Community College students this school year.

“What we are responsible for is our students’ safety,” UCC President Debra Thatcher said in a press release. “And students will not move in until all work is completed.”

Low levels of lead dust were found in two small storage rooms, designated as non-living quarters, according to the college. The rooms where the dust was found have been sealed off and a contractor is working on cleaning the areas. After the cleaning is completed, the areas will be retested, according to a press release.

UCC requested additional safety testing after April Ehrlich, a reporter for Jefferson Public Radio, inquired about the possibility of lead dust contamination at the center. Ehrlich, who previously worked at The News-Review, reported in 2016 that former National Guard armories with indoor firing ranges were at risk for having dangerous levels of lead.

The News-Review asked UCC Athletic Director Craig Jackson during an interview in September about the possibility of lead dust being found in the building. Jackson said at the time all testing had been completed and the building was up to code.

The building was tested for asbestos and lead-based paint per code requirements prior to the college signing a lease.

The owner of the building responded immediately to a request from UCC to perform additional testing, according to a UCC press release. Neither Faith Construction or UCC have responded to requests from The News-Review for test results.

The Oregon Military Department closed indoor firing ranges at Oregon armories in 2014 due to lead dust contamination.

The Flegel Center, which was used as an armory from 1914 until 1977, had a firing range in the basement of the drill hall.

The college, which is leasing the space, is not responsible for the testing or the abatement but has been working closely with the building owner and contractor.

“Safety for our students is our No. 1 priority,” Thatcher said. “The building’s owner and the contractor on this project have been responsive and cooperative throughout the entire process.”

Samples were taken from all three floors of the building, according to UCC’s press release.

“The contractor informed UCC it is not uncommon to find these types of environmental challenges in old buildings, and assured college officials that certified, licensed professionals are being hired to complete the mitigation,” according to the press release.

Lead exposure can cause severe mental and physical impairment. Children are most vulnerable because their brains are still developing. Even low levels of lead in blood can damage a child’s development, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The building was leased by the college to accommodate out-of-town male students. Most of those would be student athletes. who could see cardiovascular problems, increased blood pressure, decreased kidney function and reproductive problems if exposed to toxic levels of lead dust.

Students who were scheduled to move in Tuesday are currently staying with host families.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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BetsyC

Duh!

Welcome to the discussion.

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