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Asbestos cleanup at high school in El Dorado Hills complete

Release Date: 8/18/2004
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, (415) 947-4297

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it completed outdoor cleanup work at Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills, work necessary to cut the risks associated with naturally occurring asbestos in the soil around the school.

The EPA has also decided it will not hold the school district liable for the agency’s costs. The EPA spent approximately $1.2 million for the work, which consisted primarily of landscaping the school grounds to prevent dust that may contain asbestos fibers from getting airborne.

"We are delighted to be finished with our outdoor mitigation work at Oak Ridge High School and look forward to working with the school district to make sure that its operation and maintenance regime minimizes asbestos problems in the future," said Daniel Meer, chief of the EPA’s Response, Planning and Assessment Branch at the agency’s Pacific Southwest Regional Office in San Francisco.

There is no health threat from asbestos in soil, but the fibers can get airborne. If inhaled, asbestos can cause damage to human lungs, including asbestosis and a rare form of cancer, mesothelioma. Scientists however, are still not able to say with certainty how much asbestos in soil becomes airborne. The EPA has an "action level" for asbestos in soil -- 1 percent by weight -- at which it must take action to cut the risk of contamination.

The EPA’s action at Oak Ridge High was taken under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. CERCLA requires that those responsible for pollution pay cleanup costs whenever possible. Although the asbestos at Oak Ridge is naturally occurring, the contamination was on school property, so under CERCLA, the school could have been held liable for the EPA’s costs.

The EPA decided not to try to recover cleanup costs from the school after determining that it had no uncommitted funds to pay the government. The school has also spent $1.3 million on cleanup of asbestos contamination before the EPA’s involvement.

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