School Districts Fined in Arizona for Asbestos Contamination

School buildings are often at the center of a community, carrying the hopes of each successive generation as it gains the education it needs to fully join that community. The buildings frequently serve multiple purposes and often grow and receive alterations over their decades of service.

But, because they often have been present for many years, in addition to requiring updates to remain current, they often harbor potentially dangerous building materials that date from their original construction. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for inspecting schools to ensure that the use of asbestos-contaminated building products do not pose a risk to students, teachers and others who frequent the halls of these structures.

Congress enacted the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) to protect school populations from the ill effects of asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma. In Arizona, six school districts have been fined by the EPA for being in violation of the act.

The districts need to clean up asbestos contamination that was found in ceiling tile and walls of some of the school building. School districts in Apache Junction, Florence, McNary, St. John’s, Vernon and Round Valley districts owe fines totaling $95,000.

The Florence School District is responsible for one of the largest fines, at $31,000. A spokeswoman stated the EPA had found asbestos in buildings, some of which were almost 100 years old, and that it had been removed.

Asbestos is a risk where building materials may wear, or become damaged, and the asbestos fibers can become airborne and be inhaled. Asbestos was often used in floor and ceiling tiles and it wallboard or plaster, and is particularly a danger when building alteration and remodeling is in process.

Source: KJZZ-91.5, “EPA fines six Arizona school districts for asbestos violations,” Steve Shadley, March 4, 2013