Asbestos Remains Present and Not Accounted for in Many Schools

12/11/2015

This Sunday's Boston Globe published a front page article regarding the lingering problem of poorly maintained asbestos in Massachusetts schools. As we reported on September 10, 2015 (http://www.governo.com/News/School-Districts-Take-Note-Enhanced-Federal-Scrutiny-of-Asbestos-in-Schools.shtml), the US Congress has taken a renewed interest in the subject of asbestos: the introduction of the READ Act aims to create a database of the public locations which contain asbestos and calls on the States to report the location and type of asbestos that remain in its schools.

The results of this survey reveal that asbestos continues to be present in many schools throughout Massachusetts and the country. This fact is no surprise as it is often best to maintain asbestos in place, rather than trying to remove it. What is surprising is that the process for keeping track of asbestos has not been routinely followed. Of the 20 States that have provided information, two-thirds of the schools contained asbestos materials, and of that amount only 8% were routinely inspected to ensure that the in place asbestos is not hazard. In Massachusetts, only 1,054 of the Commonwealth's 2,500 schools responded to the survey, and of those responding, 30% reported that asbestos remained in its buildings.

The large number of schools that contain asbestos in Massachusetts is expected, but the limited inspection of these schools is noteworthy. Over the past seven years, Massachusetts has only inspected 280 schools, issuing violations in an alarming 41% of those reviews. The limited resources allocated to the inspection of schools makes tracking and remedying any problems. Additionally, due to the budget shortfalls faced by many schools, the issue of asbestos is a low priority for many districts.

This survey shows that not only does asbestos continue to be present in many schools throughout the country, but that there is not compliance with rules that require inspections and procedures to ensure that asbestos does not pose a risk to school children or staff. While the survey identifies the problem, additional funding and attention is needed to keep better track of the remaining asbestos to keep it safely maintained.

We follow asbestos-related developments for our clients and stay current in all areas related to environmental and toxic regulatory activities and claims. If you have any questions about this or other asbestos issues, please feel free to contact David Governo at dgoverno@governo.com or Brendan Tuohy at btuohy@governo.com.

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