Thursday, September 01, 2011

Schools Required to Manage Asbestos

Old Wailuku Post Office taped and closed off d...Image via WikipediaUnder the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) regulation all public and private schools (with a few exceptions) were required in 1989 to develop management plans for managing the asbestos installed in their buildings. The AHERA regulation required the schools to update these asbestos management plans every three years.  This management plan requirement included notifying workers and building occupants, or their legal guardians, at least once each school year about inspections, response actions, and post-response action activities, including periodic reinspection and surveillance activities that are planned or in progress.  Such notification must be done in writing and a copy placed in the management plan. Suggested notification methods may be through the publication of an article in a school district newsletter or through a separate written notice distributed to staff and sent home to a student's parent or legal guardian.  Since a new school year is upon us, it is important to remember what is required in  this notification.  The New York State Education Department - Facilities Planning website has a Annual AHERA Notification section discussing what is required. 

In addition, schools are required to make the management plans available for inspection to representatives of EPA and the State, the public, including parents, teachers, and other school personnel within 5 working days after receiving a request for the inspection.  The local education agency (LEA) is also required to notify in writing parent, teacher, and employee organizations of the availability of management plans and shall include in the management plan a description of steps to notify such organizations, and a dated copy of the notification.  In the absence of any such organizations for parents, teachers, or employees, the local education agency shall provide written notice to that relevant group of the availability of management plans and shall include in the management plan a description of the steps taken to notify such groups and a dated copy of the notification.  The LEA asbestos designee for the school district is to oversee that these AHERA required notifications occur each school year. The school may determine when to do AHERA notification, as long as it occurs at least once each school year.

Enforcement of this requirement is done by the EPA's Region II office. They have been very active inspecting New York State schools for compliance with AHERA (in addition, New York State Deaprtment of Health, had received a grant from EPA to perform these inspections on their behalf).  Schools which lack required elements in the AHERA management plan, including the notification documentation outlined above, will be issued an EPA Notice of Noncompliance.  Subsequently, the school has thirty days from the Notice date to correct the violations.  Schools which do not comply with the Notice within thirty days are subject to additional EPA enforcement action, which may result in civil or criminal penalties.
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