On February 20, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that six school districts in Arizona have been fined nearly $100,000 for violations of the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA).
A report from CBS5-Arizona stated that up to 15,000 children attend the 25 Arizona schools that have been found not to comply with AHERA. At the end of 2011, inspectors reported numerous asbestos violations in the schools, including “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.”
According to the EPA, all of the districts in question have been notified, and all plan to take the necessary steps to be in compliance with asbestos laws. If the schools cooperate, many of the fines may be reduced dramatically or even erased.
“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. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma cancer and can cause other potentially fatal diseases like asbestosis.
Under EPA laws, U.S. school districts are required to conduct an initial inspection, carried out by a licensed asbestos contractor, to identify and locate any materials within their buildings that contain asbestos. If any asbestos is found, the districts must put a management plan in place to ensure the safety of those who occupy the building.
Parents and teachers will be given free access to asbestos reports for the schools, and surveillance and re-inspection of the materials will be carried out at regular intervals.
The six districts cited include: St. John’s Unified School District in Apache County, Florence Unified School District in Pinal County, Vernon Elementary School District in Apache County, McNary Elementary School District on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, and Round Valley Unified School District, also in Apache County.