OAK RIDGE (WATE) - Hundreds of employees are on administrative leave after insulation containing asbestos came loose from a heating and air system in the federal building in Oak Ridge.
The building closed Thursday afternoon because of the problem, and it remains closed.
"Had our employees on administrative leave on Friday, we've been assessing the situation and getting workspaces set up for some of our employees so we could get them, some of them, back to work this morning," explained Department of Energy spokesman Mike Koentop.
Some employees who are back at work are in nearby buildings.
"People are adapting. We've set up work stations on tables with computers. It's probably not ideal work conditions like they're used to in the federal building, but everybody has been adapting. Everybody understands the situation they way it is, and we're getting back to work so we can continue our mission," Koentop said.
Not all the federal building's employees have to work out of new office spaces. The basement is running off a separate heating and air system so those employees get to stay in place.
Additionally, some employees are working from home.
The Department of Energy knew there was asbestos in the building. It was common in many building materials up until the 1970s.
"During a routine inspection, they discovered that, and so we took the precautionary steps of moving people out of the building until we can further assess the building," Koentop explained.
Asbestos is usually not an issue in buildings until it starts breaking apart and becomes airborne. That's when it becomes an inhalation hazard.
The federal employees will remain on paid administrative leave until they can come back to work.