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Funds Sought for E.D. Asbestos Study

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Washington--The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a plan to require the Education Department to determine the extent of asbestos contamination in the schools and assess the cost of removing it.

The proposal, submitted by Senator Walter D. Huddleston, Democrat of Kentucky, was accepted as part of the 1983 supplemental appropriations bill. The only cost would be administrative and staff time, according to an aide to the Senator.

Under the proposal, ed would work with the Environmental Protection Agency (epa) to compile information already gathered during the inspections required by the agency.

The inspections, mandated by a 1980 federal school-asbestos law, must be completed by June 28. At that time, school officials must notify parents and staff members if asbestos is present and post notices of its potential hazard.

The new measure would take the process of eliminating asbestos from the schools a step further. The intent, the spokesman said, is to provide the Congress with the information it needs to determine how widespread the problem is and what role, if any, federal funding should play in alleviating it.

"It's conceivable that if the pro-blem is not too widespread, there may not be any action necessary. We feel like at least we'll have a handle on it and be ready to act," Senator Huddleston's aide said.

If enacted, the proposal would require the agency to complete the report by Sept. 1, 1983. Imposing that deadline will give the Congress time to consider whether it should include funding in the 1984 budget.

One major issue surrounding the inspection requirement has been that school districts that uncover potentially hazardous asbestos may not have the money to remove it. Parents, once notified of the problem, may then take their children out of school. Another problem may be that officials will be forced to close schools during the removal process, and possibly permanently if the problem is widespread.

No estimates on the amount of federal funds that might be allocated for asbestos removal will be available until the report is complete, the aide said.

In other action, the Appropriations Committee accepted a proposal by Senator Lowell P. Weicker, Republican of Connecticut, to add $47.9 million to the $1.1 billion budget for special-education programs.

Senate action on the supplemental appropriations bill is expected this month.--sw

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