San Diego State University, inewsource reported, mishandled a $2 million renovation of its College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts building to the point that a former OSHA official called the project, which ended up shutting down the building because of released toxins in the air, "a case study in how not to do projects.”
The renovation was supposed to start last summer, but SDSU failed to secure the proper permits in time, so the schedule was changed so that work would begin in early 2019 when students were on break. After heavy rains, crews used Tremfix to seal the many roof leaks, but an aging and malfunctioning HVAC system failed to clear the building of vapors from the chemicals, which entered through nearby fresh air ducts on the roof. Testing revealed that the level of coal tar pitch volatiles was just under OSHA’s safe limit and above the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's limits, even though crews tried various methods — some disruptive — to remove the fumes.
After many complaints about the air quality, the university moved staff and faculty to another building. As it turns out, the financial deadline that was driving SDSU's decision to push forward with construction while it was occupied is in 2020, not this year, as officials believed.
The Safety Data Sheet for Tremfix, a Tremco U.S. Roofing product, states that certain levels of exposure to the product could cause allergic skin reactions, genetic defects and cancer, as well as potentially affect fertility or the health of unborn children. As with similar roofing products from other manufacturers, one of the many precautionary statements around the use of Tremfix advises those exposed to its dust, fumes, gas, mist, vapors or spray to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment.
Health complaints related to the fumes in the building included vomiting, nosebleeds and migraines. The San Diego County Air Pollution Control District cited SDSU; Tremco, which was acting as a consultant on the project and recommended the use of Tremfix; and subcontractor Sylvester Roofing of Escondido, California, for releasing coal tar pitch volatiles into the structure.
The university is planning another $12 million in renovations, including a new $2.5 million roof. The building reopened in May but is mostly vacant and likely won't be fully occupied until the next round of construction work is finished in 2021.
On a positive note, SDSU is making progress on its proposed $3 billion Mission Valley mixed-use development, which will include a football stadium, residential, retail, office buildings, two hotels and 90 acres of parks and plazas. This month, the university announced it had completed the project's Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), which will be open to comments through Oct. 3. Pertinent comments will be addressed in the Final EIR.