Asbestos violations in charter schools uncovered

Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, 808-541-2711, higuchi.dean@epa.gov

(08/06/07) SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently fined seven Tucson charter school operators a combined total of $67,240 for Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act violations.

In May 2006, EPA inspectors discovered the school operators all failed to conduct inspections to determine if asbestos-containing material was present in school buildings and failed to develop asbestos management plans. Accredited inspectors later found asbestos in six of the schools. All of the schools have since taken necessary actions to comply with the law.

“Asbestos in schools has the potential for endangering the health of students, teachers, and others, including maintenance workers,” said Nathan Lau, Associate Director for the Communities and Ecosystems Division in EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “The EPA takes these violations seriously, and is pleased that the schools have now conducted the inspections and put asbestos management plans in place.”

The schools are:

* Pima Partnership School: The operator Pima Prevention Partnership, Inc. was fined $12,600.
* Transformational Learning Center: The operator TLC Charter Schools, Inc. was fined $12,600.
* Alternative Computerized Education Charter High School: The operator Tucson Youth Development, Inc. was fined $12,600.
* Tucson Urban League Academy: The operator Tucson Urban League, Inc. was fined $11,300.

Asbestos was discovered at all four schools during inspections. Each school now has a management plan including the location of the asbestos and how the school will properly manage the asbestos to reduce the risk of exposure.

* City High School: The operator of the school, Tucson Small School Project, Inc., was fined $8,800. During an inspection, the inspector found asbestos materials, including an area of damaged acoustic ceiling plaster which needed removal. The school has since implemented a management plan and removed the damaged asbestos-containing building material.

* Toltecali Academy, Calli Ollin Academy, and Hiaki High School: The operator of these schools, Calli Ollin Academy, was fined $7,300. During an inspection of Calli Ollin Academy, the inspector found asbestos materials, including about three linear feet of damaged pipe insulation. The school has since implemented a management plan and removed the damaged asbestos material for Calli Ollin Academy. Toltecali Academy was constructed in 2002 and a letter from the builder of the school confirmed that no asbestos containing building material was used in construction of the school. A management plan for the school has since been prepared. Asbestos was not found during an inspection of Hiaki High School, but the inspection was not conducted prior to operating the school. The school operator also failed to maintain an asbestos management plan, and has since developed a plan and has records available showing no asbestos was found at Hiaki.

* Southside Community School: The operator, Aprender Tucson, will pay a cash penalty of $1,453, after subtracting the EPA approved costs of complying with the law from a $2,040 fine. After the EPA’s inspection, the school operator obtained written confirmation from the builder of the school that no asbestos was used in construction, but failed to maintain an asbestos management plan. The school now has an asbestos management plan and records available showing no asbestos was used in the construction of the school.

Each school is allowed to subtract properly documented costs of complying with the regulations from the penalty amount.

Federal law requires schools to conduct an initial inspection using accredited inspectors to determine if asbestos-containing building material is present and develop a management plan to address the asbestos materials found in the school buildings. Schools are also required to appoint a designated person who is trained to oversee asbestos activities and ensure compliance with federal regulations. Finally, schools must conduct periodic surveillance and re-inspections, properly train the maintenance and custodial staff, and maintain records in the management plan.

Local education agencies must keep an updated copy of the management plan in its administrative office and at the school which must be made available for inspection by parents, teachers, and the general public.

Information about mesothelioma medical and legal options provided by the Law Office of Roger G. Worthington, P.C., www.mesothel.com.

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