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Asbestos-Law Deferrals Sought

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Although hard figures are not yet available, it appears that a substantial number of schools across the country have asked to be excused from meeting the first deadline set by the federal asbestos law.

The 1986 law required all public and private schools to inspect for the cancer-causing substance and to submit management plans to state authorities by Oct. 12.

After several education organizations complained that the deadline was unrealistic, the Congress this summer acted to allow schools that had made a "good-faith effort" to meet the deadline to request from states a deferral until May 9, 1989. Such requests had to have been filed by Oct. 12.

Officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said they would not know before early next year how many schools had requested a deferral. But officials in charge of states' asbestos programs said that many schools asked for extensions.

In Oklahoma, state authorities had received 463 management plans and 289 deferral requests by Oct. 12. About 100 other school districts and private schools had not filed anything with the state by that date.

In Michigan, less than 500 of the state's 1,800 school districts and private schools had submitted management plans by the deadline. But state officials could not say how many other districts had applied for deferrals.

Only 50 plans in Michigan had been reviewed before the last-minute rush, and five had been approved.

Officials in North Carolina said they were still tabulating the number of responses they received by the deadline, especially those received on the last day.

"A lot of inspectors and management planners were standing in line to deliver them," said Lucia Merritt, an administrative assistant in the asbestos and buildings program office in the department of health. "They rolled in boxes."--ef

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