Stewart Biology: South Block update

Published: 27 February 2023

On Friday, a fresh round of cleaning took place in the South Block of the Stewart Biology Building. New air samples were taken over the weekend and sent to a lab for analysis, and as was the case for previous tests, we are happy to share that these results are in full compliance with Quebec regulatory standards.

The results indicate a concentration below the minimum amount that this lab can detect with this type of test and sample, which is 0.02 fibres per cubic centimeter of air. However, McGill’s self-imposed threshold, applied as our safety standard across all University buildings, is a maximum of 0.01 fibres per cubic centimeter of air. Although the concentration in the South Block is well below the Quebec government threshold of 0.1 fibres per cubic centimeter of air, and although the South Block is therefore safe to reopen as per regulatory standards, we do not yet know whether it meets the stricter McGill standard of 0.01 fibres per cubic centimeter of air.

Why is McGill’s standard more stringent than Quebec regulations?

Given these test results, we are confident that the building is safe for use. But McGill’s institutional threshold is set extremely low in order to ensure the highest possible degree of confidence in the safety of our spaces. We all learn, teach, work, study and socialize in the University’s buildings, and it’s vital that we be – and feel – safe in them.

Did the North Block air tests yield the same results?

Without exception, all the North Block results yielded a finding of <0.01 fibres per cubic centimeter of air – the lowest possible concentration that the lab that performed the initial tests for us can provide for this type of test, and the standard upon which we operate. The air tests in the North Block were conducted by a different firm than these more recent South Block tests – one that provides measurements with the sensitivity that we seek.

What happens next?

South Block samples have now been sent to the lab that conducted the North Block tests. We expect to receive the results of their analyses tomorrow. Our hope is that the lack of classes this week will somewhat mitigate the disruption caused by another day of closure – but of course we know that research, administrative work, and other important activities continue to be affected. This is regrettable, but now is not the time to compromise our exacting safety standards. I can only assure you that we are working hard to ensure a safe reopening as soon as possible.

As well, we have received some inquiries from community members about the building, air safety, protocols and more. Our FAQ covers many of these, but we will soon announce a Town Hall where we will respond to your questions more fully.

Denis Mondou,
Associate Vice-Principal, Facilities Management and Ancillary Services, on behalf of the Emergency Operations Centre

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