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EPA Settles with Three Pa. School Districts and a Charter School to Ensure Safe Management of Asbestos

Release Date: 11/21/2006
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543

PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has settled four cases in Pennsylvania in an effort to ensure the safe management of asbestos-containing materials in schools.

    In separate consent agreements with EPA, the Diocese of Allentown, the Diocese of Scranton, the Philadelphia School District, and Edsys, Inc. who manages the City Charter School in Pittsburgh, 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. These cases are four of the ten cases EPA has recently resolved with local education agencies.
      “The resolution of these cases illustrates 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. All of the schools 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 Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, 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. The other six communities where cases were settled are listed at the end of the release.

      The AHERA violations the four Pennsylvania schools were cited for include 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; other AHERA recordkeeping violations.

      EPA did not find that students or other building occupants were exposed to asbestos as a result of the alleged violations. Now, all of the districts that were cited have certified that the school are now in compliance with the AHERA requirements, or have a plan for compliance.

      Under AHERA, EPA may agree to reduce or eliminate penalties due to the schools’ cooperation with EPA, compliance activities and expenditures. The four Pennsylvania settlements agreements include:

      1. EPA inspected nine of the 273 schools in the School District of Philadelphia. EPA cited the Philadelphia School District for failing to send annual notices of asbestos management plans to parent, teacher, and employee organizations. EPA has agreed to a no penalty settlement because of the School District’s compliance efforts, cooperation with EPA, and $55,151 in AHERA compliance expenditures.

      2. EPA cited the Diocese of Allentown for AHERA violations discovered during inspections of 11 of the Diocese’s 60 schools. The violations vary from school to school but include violations previously described. The Diocese has spent at least $30,528 to come into compliance, so there is a zero penalty amount.

      3. EPA cited the Diocese of Scranton for AHERA violations discovered during inspections of 10 of the Diocese’s 48 schools, which are located in Bradford, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, and Wayne Counties in northeastern Pennsylvania.

      So far, the Diocese has spent $15,210 toward AHERA compliance, and they have agreed to an additional $62,900 for AHERA compliance expenditures to inspect of all Diocese school buildings that are known or suspected to contain asbestos-containing materials; to designate and train an employee responsible for AHERA compliance; and to provide annual notice of asbestos management plans to parent, teacher, and employee organizations.

      4. Edsys, Inc is responsible for the City Charter High School in Pittsburgh to meet its AHERA requirements. The school has 530 students and 63 employees. EPA cited Edsys for failing to have an initial inspection conducted prior to the buildings’ use as a school and also not having an asbestos management plan. Desks, Inc. has spent $18,590 to comply with AHERA requirements and has certified that they are in compliance.

      In addition to the AHERA enforcement in Pennsylvania, EPA has recently taken AHERA enforcement actions in school districts in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. They are:

      District of Columbia
      Catholic Archdiocese of Washington

      Maryland
      Baltimore City
      Baltimore County
      Harford County Public Schools

      Virginia
      Chesterfield County School District
      Norfolk County Public Schools

      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.

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