Vermont Business Magazine New England states received a total of $631,000 from the US Environmental Protection Agency this year to fund activities designed to protect students, teachers and other people in school buildings from the health threats of asbestos. Five New England state agencies received between $100,000 and $166,000, depending on the amount of work they committed to do, including fully carrying out the federal compliance monitoring program. Funds are used to ensure schools take the steps to manage asbestos in accordance with the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act.
The Massachusetts program is run by the Mass. Dept. of Labor Standards. In New Hampshire and Maine, it is run by the environmental agencies; and in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont it is run by the departments of health. Vermont, which only performs the inspection portion of the program, received $16,000 and routinely shares any observations of non-compliance with EPA to resolve federal violations found by the state.
The annual funding also helps states maintain an asbestos accreditation and certification training program, and to educate teachers, parents, and school maintenance personnel on the dangers of exposure to materials that contain asbestos. In addition, the funds pay for audits that ensure asbestos professionals licensed by the state are complying with federal law.
Some of the rules inspectors most often find violated are the requirement that schools have a “designated person” assigned to manage asbestos in the building, that they update their asbestos management plans every three years and that they notify parents every year that the asbestos management plan is on file. Asbestos is most often found on pipes in the boiler rooms or in floor tiles.
Under the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, public and private elementary and secondary school officials must have their buildings inspected for asbestos-containing building materials, prepare management plans and take actions to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards. Schools officials are also required to maintain and update asbestos management plans and to keep a copy at each individual school. These plans are required to document the recommended asbestos response actions, the location of the asbestos within the school, and any action taken to repair and remove the material. Removal of asbestos is not usually necessary unless the material is severely damaged or will be disturbed by a building demolition or renovation project.
The EPA Healthy Schools website (https://www.epa.gov/schools) provides information that supports efforts to keep schools healthy, including information on asbestos. Children can spend 90 percent of their time indoors and much of that time in school. Unhealthy school environments can affect children’s health, attendance, concentration, and performance.
Personnel working on asbestos activities in schools must be trained and accredited in accordance with federal law. States receiving federal funds manage these training programs. Names of state asbestos contacts are available at https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/state-asbestos-contacts .
General information on asbestos: https://www.epa.gov/asbestos