New York School District is Proactive in Identifying and Mitigating Asbestos Issues in Schools

After several incidents of unsafe levels of asbestos in Binghamton-area schools caused administrators to move students to other classrooms, the Binghamton City School District is being proactive in preventing future incidents. The same relocation initiative is being done with other areas exposed to asbestos such as offices.

In an effort to curtail costs on asbestos remediation and to identify any potential issues before they become hazardous, the school district acted on a special request from the school board to step up inspections in the schools, according to an article in PressConnects.com.

During the summer, Calvin Coolidge Elementary School was found to have “unacceptable levels [of asbestos] in the entire building, except the gymnasium and the cafeteria,” leading to cleanup and closure of the school until December. The District spent nearly $5 million for remediation at Coolidge.

The New York Department of Health reports that through the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), local education agencies are required to inspect their schools for asbestos-containing building material and prepare management plans to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards. All public school districts, non-profit private schools, charter schools and schools affiliated with religious institutions are included in the regulations. A visual inspection is performed every six months, but every three years a more thorough inspection is required.

However, due to the issues at Calvin Coolidge and the asbestos-containing debris found in a window track at Theodore Roosevelt, the school district spent $80,000 for an off-cycle inspection. The licensed asbestos inspectors identified small areas in five schools. According to PressConnects, “the issues were in tunnels or other areas which were not accessible to students or staff.” The affected areas have been sealed off and security measures were taken to keep the areas inaccessible to unauthorized users.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, and “the risk of school children being exposed to even low levels of asbestos is a concern.” As a result, AHERA was passed in 1986 by Congress to protect school children and school employees from exposure to asbestos in school buildings. In the pamphlet “The ABC’s of Asbestos in School,” which explains AHERA to parents and teachers, the EPA notes that inspecting the condition of asbestos materials in schools is extremely important so that changes in the material’s condition, such as damage or deterioration, can be detected and corrected before the condition worsens.

Parents can contact their local school district to view the district’s school asbestos management plan.

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