UPDATE: Miami Museum of Science Now Open After Removing Asbestos

The Miami Museum of Science is open once again after closing for a week to remove asbestos uncovered by a New Times investigation.

The museum is back up and running just in time for a party tomorrow night to celebrate Art Basel and the unveiling of plans for a new science museum in Bicentennial Park.

"The building is absolutely safe," insists museum director Gillian Thomas. "We wouldn't be reopening if it weren't."

"We are just finishing some final air sampling," she says. "There was no asbestos found in the air at all, either in the museum or the planetarium."

Miami-Dade officials confirm that the air samples -- conducted by an independent business contracted by the museum -- have come back negative for asbestos.

"The contractor has wrapped up the removal of the asbestos," says Patrick Wong, chief of the county's Air Quality Management Division. "They have cleaned the space and sealed the walls."

Wong says he is still waiting on tests proving an air conditioning unit near the electrical room in question is asbestos free, but is satisfied with the museum's response. (Federal and local law bans any new use of asbestos, but doesn't require its removal).

"They've done everything that they've had to, maybe more," he says.

"From a regulatory standpoint, that's what matters."

But Bruce Marchette, who first analyzed the asbestos samples taken by ex-employee Vasko Jontschev, says that removing the carcinogenic material is not as easy as city and county officials often make it sound.

"Just look at the Claude Pepper Federal Building," Marchette says. "There was asbestos in the fireproofing. They want you to think that they removed it

but you can never really get rid of all of it."

"If it's put on fireproofing in a building, that's built around structural steel

and can only be removed where you can reach it," he says. "But there is plenty of material where you can't reach it, places where it could get into the AC system."

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.