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EPA Reminds School Districts of Federal Requirements Regarding the Safe Management of Asbestos

Release Date: 04/02/2009
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. - April 2, 2009) – Inspections over the past year of schools in New England by EPA underscore the need for school districts to be vigilant in protecting students’ health by following asbestos management requirements.

In 2008, EPA issued “Notices of Non-compliance” to nearly two dozen school districts in New Hampshire and Vermont regarding violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA). Typical violations of AHERA included failure to maintain updated, complete asbestos management plans; failure to conduct periodic inspections; and failure to train custodial and maintenance personnel. When EPA has taken action, the “Notices of Non-compliance” have required the schools to submit corrective action plans within 30 days.

EPA conducted 41 AHERA inspections at schools throughout New England in 2008, and expects to continue those efforts in 2009. These inspections, and subsequent penalties and Notices of Non-compliance, serve as reminders to all school districts that keeping children and school employees safe is a priority to EPA.

One example of an action EPA has taken recently involved the public school district in Barre, Vermont. In this instance, EPA discovered in 2006 that the Washington Central Supervisory Union had violated AHERA by failing to maintain a complete, updated copy of its Asbestos Management Plan (AMP) in the local education agency’s central administrative offices; maintain a complete, updated copy of the AMP for each school in the respective school’s administrative offices; provide written annual notifications to parents, teachers, and employee organizations of the availability of the AMP; and have the AMP available for EPA at the time of inspection.

Washington Central has reached an agreement with EPA to resolve the violations of TSCA and AHERA. EPA determined that $17,145 was an appropriate penalty for the violations. Under the terms of the settlement, Washington Central will not be assessed a monetary penalty after providing proof that the costs of their compliance efforts following EPA’s 2006 inspection exceeded that amount. AHERA allows EPA to deduct the cost of compliance from the penalty.

Violations of AHERA are serious because people attending, working at and/or visiting public buildings should be protected from the hazards of asbestos. AHERA requires local education agencies to identify asbestos-containing materials in public and private elementary and secondary schools. The local agencies must develop asbestos management plans and implement those plans in a timely manner, taking preventative measures against the release of asbestos fibers. The law also requires schools to survey asbestos-containing materials, conduct periodic inspections of these materials, train personnel on AHERA compliance, and make the plans available to the public on a yearly basis so that teachers and families can be kept informed about the location and condition of asbestos in their schools.

More information:

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Asbestos enforcement in New England (epa.gov/region1/enforcement/asbestos/index.html)

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Asbestos in schools (epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/asbestos_in_schools.html)

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