By Chase Kamp
Southeast Valley Ledger
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fined the Florence Unified School District more than $31,000 for asbestos violations found in a 2011 inspection of Florence High School. However, district officials said the issues have been addressed and FHS will ultimately not owe fees to the EPA as the documented costs of compliance were the same as the fine.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined six Arizona school districts a combined total of $94,575 for Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) violations in Feb. 2013. More than 15,000 children attend the 25 schools not in compliance with the federal AHERA in these districts.
Florence Unified School District was fined $31,705, but no cash payment was due because the documented costs of compliance exceeded the penalty. Rules allow each school district to subtract properly documented costs of complying with the regulations from the penalty amount.
Florence USD spokesperson Dana Hawman said the cost of review, remediation, planning and training was equal to the price of the fine.
She said all surfaces containing asbestos have been identified and any areas needing remediation have been addressed. “Asbestos does not become a problem, though, unless and until it is disturbed, so there are some areas where asbestos is still in place,” she explained.
Necessary repairs are completed, she added, with the caveat that monitoring is an ongoing requirement.
“As per EPA regulations, FUSD has enacted a management plan with designated, trained personnel performing routine checks and all appropriate personnel trained in proper maintenance and monitoring of the affected areas,” Hawman said.
Also in Pinal County, the Apache Junction USD was fined $21,675, which was reduced to $7,933 due to costs of achieving compliance.
During inspections conducted in 2011, EPA inspectors discovered numerous violations at Arizona schools, from failing to inspect facilities for asbestos containing materials, failing to re-inspect campuses with known asbestos containing materials, and failing to have an asbestos management plan.
“Asbestos in schools has the potential to harm the health of students, teachers, and maintenance workers,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA takes these violations seriously, and we are satisfied the schools have now conducted inspections and put their asbestos plans in place.”
Florence High School was established 1915, starting out in the building that is now used as the district office. The EPA issued standards for asbestos in 1988. Since then, the district added buildings to the school campus in 2002, 2003 and 2010.
Federal law requires schools to conduct an initial inspection using accredited inspectors to determine if asbestos-containing building material is present and develop a management plan to address the asbestos materials found in the school buildings. Schools are also required to appoint a designated person who is trained to oversee asbestos activities and ensure compliance with federal regulations.
Schools must also conduct periodic surveillance and re-inspections of asbestos-containing building material, properly train the maintenance and custodial staff, and maintain records in the management plan.