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E.P.A. Issues New Guidance On Reinspecting for Asbestos

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WASHINGTON--Schools should conduct re-inspections for asbestos-containing materials that are even more thorough than their original inspections three years ago, a new document issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states.

The document, released last month, offers guidance to educators who are required by federal law to re-inspect their buildings for asbestos by July 9, 1992.

Under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986, all schools were required to inspect for asbestos and submit management plans to state authorities by October 1988, unless they requested a deferral until May 1989. Educators were required to begin implementing their management plans by July 9, 1989 and to re-inspect their schools for any changes in the condition of their asbestos-containing material within three years of this date.

Mounting evidence indicates, however, that many of the consultants that schools hired to do this work lacked the training and experience necessary to do a proper job. A study released by the E.P.A. last summer found that more than one-third of all schools complying with the law conducted "deficient'' or "seriously deficient'' inspections. Eighty-two percent of the schools had at least one asbestos-containing material that had gone unidentified in the initial inspection. (See Education Week, Sept. 18, 1991.)

The new document, which was sent to all districts and private schools, is designed to help schools eliminate many of the flaws of the first inspections.

According to the new guidelines, during this re-inspection period schools should:

  • Determine whether the inspector should look for previously unidentified materials that were commonly overlooked in many initial inspections, including fire doors, resilient sheet flooring, interior and exterior duct insulation, and vibration dampening cloth.
  • Re-inspect buildings or rooms already thought to be free of asbestos.
  • Reassess the damage or potential for damage of all asbestos-containing materials.
  • Clarify which rooms and materials contain asbestos.
  • Develop a written statement indicating agreement or disagreement with the management-planner's recommendations, justification for any disagreements, and a schedule for implementing the management plan. --E.F.

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