In 2015, a government-issued report raised an alarm over the amount of asbestos in U.S. schools. Since then, several Connecticut schools have been working in earnest to clear the hazardous material from the buildings. (See how one Hartford school was forced to deal with an asbestos issue.) Now, some parents are concerned that officials from a West Haven high school may be endangering the students’ health during an asbestos abatement project.
One wing of the West Haven High School is about to undergo a two-month asbestos abatement project, but, according to a Dec. 6 report from WTNH, the work is scheduled to be done while students are attending classes. Although the building is draped in a tarp and no classes will be held in that section, Conn. asbestos laws require the work to be done when no students or faculty are there. The school received a waiver, however, and that is raising concerns with parents to the more than 1,500 students who attend the school.
“It’s very concerning for me,” said one concerned parent. “I’m asking for them not to abate asbestos at all while students are in session.” This parent, in fact, is so concerned, that she is considering a lawsuit to block the work.
In May 2017, it was revealed that when surveillance cameras were installed at the school asbestos was disturbed, leading to allegations that asbestos abatement work was not managed properly. WTNH reported at the time that the mayor’s office, parents and the environmental company had differing opinions of whether asbestos was released. Ultimately, a spokesperson for the environmental company said, “The individuals that did that work weren’t licensed to handle asbestos. It’s pretty clear.” This raised the parents’ concerns making them suspicious of the newly scheduled asbestos work at the school.
U.S. buildings built prior to the 1980s were more than likely built with materials that contain asbestos. Unless the schools have undergone extensive renovations, they still harbor the asbestos-containing materials. The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), established in 1986 to protect teachers, students and all school employees from asbestos exposure, require local education agencies to inspect for and manage asbestos containing materials. Unfortunately, when officials attempt to clean up, they often run up against financial issues and push-back from parents and the community.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that asbestos that is in good condition and left undisturbed is unlikely to present a health risk. However, risk of mesothelioma, lung cancer or other asbestos-related diseases becomes an issue when asbestos is damaged or disturbed where asbestos fibers become airborne and can be inhaled. This can occur during renovations, requiring careful management and work by certified asbestos contractors.
A letter from Hygenix, Inc., Environmental Consultants and Laboratory Services, reported on Dec. 1 that various perimeter air samples from the school were returned with “No Asbestos Fibers Detected.” The report was posted on the school’s website along with the statement noting that abatement will begin on Dec. 4.
School superintendent Neil Cavallaro told WTNH, “West Haven High School has taken all of the appropriate steps to ensure everyone’s safety … contingency plans are in place in case there are elevated levels.”
If you are concerned about asbestos in your child’s school, contact your school administrator. According to the EPA, your local school district/local education agency must nominate a “designated person” to perform and delegate, if necessary, the management of asbestos in a school building. This person should be able to address any specific concerns you have about management of asbestos in your child’s school.
If you’ve been exposed to asbestos and have concerns on your health, our reliable asbestos attorneys at Belluck & Fox, LLP can help you. Call or visit our law office in New York City today.