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Most Public Schools Met Asbestos Deadline, Surveys Find

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Washington--The vast majority of public schools were able to meet federal deadlines for inspecting for asbestos and submitting management plans to state officials, two independent surveys have found.

Federal law required all schools to carry out both tasks by Oct. 12, 1988. Those that were unable to meet the deadline after a "good faith" effort were allowed to apply for a deferral extending until May 9 of this year.

A survey of officials in 36 states and the District of Columbia by Kaselaan and D'Angelo Associates, a national asbestos-consulting firm, showed that more than 95 percent of school districts had met all the requirements by the May deadline.

In seven states, the survey found, all public and private schools had satisfied the requirements in time.

The District of Columbia, where only 66 percent of schools met the deadline, had the lowest compliance rate.

Officials of the Environmental Protection Agency said in May that most of the schools that were unable to abide by the law were small, private institutions. (See Education Week, May 31, 1989.)

About a third of state officials surveyed said they expected to disapprove a substantial percentage of the management plans submitted. Under federal law, state officials have 90 days to review and reject management plans.

In a second study, by the National School Boards Association, 98 percent of the districts responding had submitted either a management plan or a deferral request by the October deadline.

That study also indicated that schools expect to spend far more on asbestos-related activities than the epa has predicted. The survey found that the 671 responding districts expect to spend $464 million on these activities by April 1990. At that rate, the nsba estimated, all schools would spend a total of $6 billion--double the agency's estimate--to comply with the law.

Asbestos Bill Stalled

Meanwhile, a bill that would require asbestos consultants to proel15lvide financial assurances for any liability resulting from their work and would raise standards for becoming a consultant, is languishing in a House subcommittee.

The bill, which also would extend most of the federal asbestos rules for schools to public and commercial buildings, will probably not see any action until September, according to an aide to Representative James J. Florio, the New Jersey Democrat who sponsored the legislation.

The epa is expected at that time to announce whether it will develop regulations for other structures without a Congressional mandate, the aide noted. If the agency goes ahead with that effort, the legislation may be altered or dropped, the aide said.

The epa also is planning to begin in the fall an evaluation of the effectiveness of the federal asbestos law. In a 1988 report to the Congress on asbestos in public and commercial buildings, the agency promised to complete that inquiry by February 1991.

The agency said in a document released for comment last month that it will conduct six studies of different aspects of the law, at a total cost of about $1 million.

The document indicated that the studies would include asbestos reinspections at approximately 200 schools, an evaluation of the quality of schools' management plans, and studies to determine whether school personnel have been properly trained to work with asbestos and if abatement activities have been done correctly.--ef

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