Many New York Schools Continue to Address Asbestos Issues

Earlier this month we reported about the “unacceptable” levels of asbestos found and tested at Calvin Coolidge Elementary School in Binghamton. The asbestos issue resulted in officials moving a summer program to another school in the district. Now, contractors in Brasher Falls are dealing with asbestos abatement in the St. Lawrence Elementary school basement.

According to an article in the Watertown Daily Times, as part of the St. Lawrence Central School’s capital project, in addition to lead and asbestos abatement at the elementary school, contractors have removed ceiling tiles throughout the middle school and high school hallways and classrooms, and they are converting from heating oil to natural gas as well as from steam to hot water throughout the school district. The steam line and heating units date back to the 1950s, according to the article.

Asbestos is a building material that was widely used through the 1970s in hundreds of building products, including roofing materials, ceiling tiles and insulation. Potentially every area of an older school could have asbestos hiding within it. When asbestos becomes airborne and is inhaled, it can cause serious illness and has been directly linked to mesothelioma, a rare form of incurable cancer.

The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), a provision of the Toxic Substances Control Act, requires local education agencies to “inspect their schools for asbestos-containing building material and prepare management plans to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards.” As was noted by the Binghamton City school district article, school officials are aware of the schools with asbestos-containing products and typically conduct inspections each year.

In April 2011, the New York State Department of Health issued a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding asbestos analysis to “help clarify and interpret existing New York State guidance and regulations.” Following is a partial list of materials that may be found in schools and older buildings, identified within the FAQs that should be analyzed for asbestos prior to beginning work:

  • Ceiling Tiles with or without Cellulose
  • Resilient Floor Tiles
  • Vinyl Asbestos Tile
  • Paint Chips
  • Caulking
  • Wall and Ceiling Plaster
  • Asbestos Pipe Packing
  • Boiler Insulation
  • Furnace Gaskets

Construction and remodeling efforts in schools must be handled by certified asbestos abatement contractors that follow federal, New York State and local safety guidelines. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that personnel working on asbestos activities in schools must be trained and accredited in accordance with the Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan which defines a specific training curriculum for asbestos contractors. NY state and local agencies may have more stringent standards than those required by the Federal government and must also be followed.

If you think you are one of the victims, seek help from our New York highly qualified asbestos attorneys at Belluck & Fox, LLP today.

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