2006 News Releases
Baltimore City and Baltimore County School Districts Commit to Safely Manage Asbestos
Release Date: 11/21/2006
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543
PHILADELPHIA – As part of EPA’s enforcement and compliance efforts to ensure the safe management of asbestos-containing materials in schools, EPA has settled its case with the public school systems of Baltimore City and Baltimore County.
In separate consent agreements with EPA, the Baltimore City Public School System and the Baltimore County Public Schools have settled alleged violations of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (or “AHERA”), the federal law requiring schools to inspect and manage asbestos-containing building materials.
“The resolution of these cases show a positive new direction in enforcement and compliance,” said Donald S. Welsh, EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional administrator. “EPA inspected a small sample of schools and found violations. Baltimore City and Baltimore County quickly agreed to invest funds to go above and beyond compliance in all of its schools to ensure that its students and staff are protected. This is a win-win for everyone.”
The combined results of the AHERA cases EPA has recently settled with 10 school districts in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and D.C. is due in large part to the districts’ willingness to cooperate to protect students and staff. The agency’s inspection of 137 schools has resulted in agreements that will bring 1019 schools into compliance.
AHERA requires schools to develop a management plan for asbestos-containing materials (such as insulation, wall paneling, and floor tiles), specifying safeguards to prevent the release of asbestos fibers. Schools must annually notify parent, teacher, and employee organizations about the availability of the asbestos management plan. The law also requires schools to survey asbestos-containing materials, conduct twice-yearly surveillance and tri-annual inspections of these materials, and train personnel on AHERA compliance.
In cooperation with state and local officials, EPA’s mid-Atlantic office ensures AHERA compliance in Maryland and the other mid-Atlantic states, through compliance assistance activities, inspections, and, when necessary, administrative penalty actions. Under the law, schools’ expenditures on compliance measures may reduce penalties for violations.
EPA cited the Baltimore City and County school systems for several AHERA violations, including failing to maintain complete, updated asbestos management plans; failing to notify parents, teachers, and employees of the availability of the management plans; failing to conduct required surveillance and inspections of asbestos-containing materials; failing to conduct required employee training; and other AHERA recordkeeping violations.
EPA has agreed to settlements with both the Baltimore City and Baltimore County school systems for no penalty, in light of these parties’ cooperation with EPA, and AHERA compliance activities. The Baltimore City and County schools each documented over $109,000 in AHERA compliance expenditures.
As part of the settlement, the school districts neither admitted nor denied the alleged violations. Note: EPA does not allege that students, staff or other building occupants were exposed to asbestos fibers as a result of the alleged violations.
Asbestos was once widely used in building materials due to its insulation and fire retardant properties. Damaged or disturbed asbestos may release fibers which, if inhaled, create a risk of asbestosis, lung cancer, and other respiratory illnesses. However, intact, undisturbed asbestos materials generally do not pose a health risk, if managed in accordance with AHERA safeguards. For general information about asbestos and its regulation, visit www.epa.gov/asbestos. Information on asbestos in schools is available at http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/asbestos_in_schools.html.