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EPA reminds school officials of asbestos hazard responsibilities

Release Date: 02/14/2006
Contact Information: Martin Hestmark 303-312-6776 Brenda South 303-312-7076

DENVER – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Denver Office has sent Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) compliance assistance letters to local education agencies (LEAs) in Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota as a reminder of school responsibilities concerning asbestos.

These letters explain the LEAs’ responsibilities under the TSCA Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA). AHERA requires that all LEAs inspect their buildings for asbestos material and develop management plans for properly managing the asbestos. A sample version of the letter reads as follows:

      The purpose of this letter is to remind you of your school’s or school district’s responsibilities under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA). The AHERA focuses on protecting students and school employees from the dangers of asbestos, a naturally-occurring, fibrous mineral, which has commonly been used in building construction. As asbestos-containing building material (ACBM) deteriorates, or is disturbed through maintenance, renovation, or demolition activities, asbestos fibers are released into the air. Inhalation of these needle-like, microscopic fibers is known to cause such deadly respiratory diseases as asbestosis (scarring of lung tissues), lung cancer, and mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the lungs).

      The AHERA requires each public school district or private, nonprofit K-12 school to (1) inspect its school buildings for ACBM, (2) develop a plan to manage ACBM in each of its school buildings, (3) designate a person who will ensure that AHERA requirements are properly implemented, (4) annually notify parents, students, and staff regarding the school’s asbestos management activities, (5) provide information to contractors on the locations of ACBM in its school buildings, (6) provide asbestos awareness training to maintenance and custodial employees, and (7) conduct triennial reinspections and semiannual surveillance to monitor the condition of ACBM remaining in its school buildings.

      The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an ongoing responsibility to ensure compliance with the AHERA requirements. In order to fulfill that responsibility, EPA conducts AHERA compliance inspections. EPA may or may not have inspected your school or school district in the past, but please be aware that EPA’s inspection efforts continue. For additional information on the AHERA, you may contact Allen Gould, AHERA Compliance Inspector, at telephone 800-227-8917, extension 6406, e-mail gould.allen@epa.gov, or you may visit our website at http://www.epa.gov/asbestos (click on “Asbestos In Schools”).

It should be noted that Region 8 is not sending letters to LEAs in Colorado and Utah, because these States run their AHERA programs.