Toxic Substances:

Information on Costs and Financial Aid to Schools to Control Asbestos

RCED-92-57FS: Published: Jan 15, 1992. Publicly Released: Feb 20, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on actions school districts have taken to manage asbestos.

GAO found that: (1) because improper removal of asbestos-containing materials can cause health problems, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires asbestos removal only during building demolition or major renovation when the asbestos would be substantially disturbed if not removed first; (2) EPA recommends that schools manage asbestos in place through periodic inspection and surveillance and various abatement actions; (3) EPA reported in June 1991 that 90 percent of the response actions recommended in schools' management plans involved managing asbestos in place, while the remaining 10 percent involved removals; (4) the 15 school districts reviewed had removed some asbestos; (5) 13 districts removed asbestos because their management plans recommended removal, asbestos was an imminent hazard, or renovations or demolitions were being performed, and the remaining districts removed asbestos because they did not want to manage it in place; (6) there were no data available to determine the complete and current cost to address asbestos in schools, but in a 1987 analysis, EPA estimated that it would cost schools $3.1 billion over a 30-year period to comply with asbestos management requirements; (7) the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act requires initial inspection, development of a management plan, periodic surveillance and reinspection, special operation and maintenance procedures, and abatement response actions; (8) 14 of the 15 school districts employed a different contractor to prepare asbestos management plans and to perform the abatement work, and the district that used the same contractor for both functions used competitive bidding to award the contracts; and (9) the 15 school districts received $142,000 in federal assistance for asbestos abatement.

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