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EPA fines six Arizona school districts for asbestos violations

Release Date: 02/19/2013
Contact Information: Rusty Harris-Bishop, harris-bishop.rusty@epa.gov, 415-972-3140

More than 15,000 students to be protected by additional inspections, asbestos plans

(2/19/2013) SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fined six Arizona school districts a combined total of $94,575 for Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) violations. More than 15,000 children attend the 25 schools not in compliance with the federal AHERA in these districts.

During inspections conducted in 2011, EPA inspectors discovered numerous violations, from failing to inspect facilities for asbestos containing materials, failing to re-inspect campuses with known asbestos containing materials, and failing to have an Asbestos Management Plan. All of the school districts have since taken necessary actions to comply with the law, with the cost of compliance reducing the penalties in most cases to zero.

“Asbestos in schools has the potential to harm the health of students, teachers, and maintenance workers,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA takes these violations seriously, and we are satisfied the schools have now conducted inspections and put their asbestos plans in place.”

Each school district is allowed to subtract properly documented costs of complying with the regulations from the penalty amount. The six school districts are:

    Apache Junction Unified School District (Pinal County): fined $21,675, but this was reduced to $7,933 because of the school district’s cost of achieving compliance.
    St. John’s Unified School District (Apache County): fined $14,195, reduced to $824 by the school district’s cost of achieving compliance.
    Florence Unified School District (Pinal County): fined $31,705, but no cash payment was due because the documented costs of compliance exceeded the penalty.
    Vernon Elementary School District (Apache County): fined $2,700, but no cash payment was due because the documented costs of compliance exceeded the penalty.
    McNary Elementary School District (Fort Apache Indian Reservation): fined $14,200, but no cash payment was due because the documented costs of compliance exceeded the penalty.
    Round Valley Unified School District (Apache County): fined $10,100, but no cash payment was due because the documented costs of compliance exceeded the penalty.

    Federal law requires schools to conduct an initial inspection using accredited inspectors to determine if asbestos-containing building material is present and develop a management plan to address the asbestos materials found in the school buildings. Schools are also required to appoint a designated person who is trained to oversee asbestos activities and ensure compliance with federal regulations. Finally, schools must conduct periodic surveillance and re-inspections of asbestos-containing building material, properly train the maintenance and custodial staff, and maintain records in the management plan.

    Local education agencies must keep an updated copy of the management plan in its administrative office and at the school which must be made available for inspection by parents, teachers, and the general public.

    For more information about federal asbestos regulations visit: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/lawsregs.html

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