A Cedar Rapids, Iowa school district faces a possible asbestos lawsuit after officials found that a contractor broke state and federal laws while performing an asbestos abatement project last year at Washington High School.
The Gazette reports that earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) determined that while a contractor worked on an abatement project between 2014-2015 at Washington High School, off of Forest Drive, they failed to follow numerous rules mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA). Violations included:
- Failure to adequately wet down asbestos while working,
- Failure to remove asbestos prior to starting the abatement and demolition project
- Failure to keep asbestos levels low after renovation
- Failure to properly seal asbestos in seal-tight containers
So far, it’s uncertain how many workers, students, and school staff members were exposed to asbestos, but according to Geoff Greenwood, the communications director for the Iowa Attorney General, the district may face up to $10,000 per day for each day the contractor and district violated asbestos rules. Greenwood also stated that it will take time before they proceed with a lawsuit against both the school district and the contractor who sent employees to work at Washington High School.
“Could be a matter of months or even a year.”
The Cedar Rapids school district responded to the lawsuit, indicating that safety was its first priority.
“The District hired an architect and abatement contractor for the Washington High School project that had successfully worked on and completed other similar projects. The District addressed issues that were brought to its attention and made sure that remedial measures were implemented as soon as possible. The District looks forward to working with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office in resolving this matter.”
Asbestos Laws While Working at Schools
The EPA states that around 132,000 schools in the United States contain asbestos. If asbestos isn’t the disturbed in the buildings, then students, staff members, and visitors are generally safe. However, if a school is undergoing maintenance or renovation, workers must follows rules set forth by the Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Reauthorization Act (ASHARA) of 1990. When workers do a poor job during maintenance or renovation projects, everyone in and around the school buildings are at risk of asbestos exposure.
ASHARA requires that school districts to “develop, maintain and update asbestos management plans” for all schools that contain asbestos. In addition, when renovation and/or demolition is needed, all workers must follow the rules set forth by the Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). NESHAP mandates that workers must:
- Have someone on the job site who’s trained and certified to handle asbestos
- Notify the state before the abatement project begins
- Thoroughly inspect the building prior to starting the abatement project
- Put all asbestos-containing waste material into a seal-tight container that’s clearly labeled as “asbestos”
- Dispose of all seal-tight containers in proper disposal areas that are designated for asbestos-containing waste materials
- Wet down all asbestos prior to sealing and disposing it (which minimizes the release of asbestos fibers into the air)
In addition to federal laws regarding asbestos, each state may have their own set of laws that all asbestos abatement workers must adhere to.
Help and Resources for Asbestos Victims
If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestos-related cancer, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. Use our free Asbestos Attorney Locator Tool to find a top mesothelioma attorney in your area. With over $30 billion currently in asbestos trust funds, now is the right time to take the first step in determining what you may qualify for. For additional assistance contact us at 800-694-4856.