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Norfolk and Chesterfield Districts to Improve Asbestos Management in Schools

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

PHILADELPHIA -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has settled asbestos-related cases with the Norfolk County Public Schools and Chesterfield County School District in Chesterfield, Va. to help ensure the safe management of asbestos containing material in school buildings.

The violations were related to the lack of asbestos-related management plans as required under Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (or AHERA), the federal law requiring schools to inspect and manage asbestos-containing building materials. EPA inspectors did not identify any buildings where students or employees were exposed to asbestos. EPA did not assess penalties because each district has spent more than $31,000 to address AHERA compliance in all of Chesterfield’s 59 schools and all of Norfolk’s 57 schools and two other buildings.

“The resolution of these cases shows 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. The districts 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 Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania 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 building materials (such as insulation, wall paneling and floor tiles) specifying safeguards to prevent the release of asbestos fibers. Schools must annually notify parents, teachers, and employees about the plan. The law also requires schools to survey asbestos-containing building materials, conduct twice-yearly surveillance and tri-annual inspections of these materials, and train custodial and maintenance staff personnel.

EPA cited the Chesterfield District for not having a required management plan at three of the district’s 59 schools, and cited the Norfolk County schools for not having a required management plans for eight of the district’s 57 schools and two other buildings. Now, both districts have certified that all of their schools are in compliance with AHERA.

In cooperation with state and local officials, EPA’s mid-Atlantic region office in Philadelphia ensures AHERA compliance in Virginia and the other mid-Atlantic states through compliance assistance activities, inspections, and, when necessary, administrative penalty actions. Under the law, EPA may agree to reduce or eliminate penalties due to the schools’ cooperation with EPA, and compliance activities and expenditures.

As part of both of these settlements, the districts neither admitted nor denied the alleged violations. For more information on asbestos in schools, visit EPA’s website at http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/asbestos_in_schools.html.

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