The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is urging the Iowa Attorney General to file a lawsuit against the Cedar Rapids Community School District and a contractor that reportedly exposed students and teachers to asbestos during a renovation project last year at a high school.
The Gazette reports that according to court documents, the DNR filed a lawsuit against the school district’s renovation contractor, Abatement Specialists LLC of Cedar Rapids, as well the school district, which is named as owner of the school building that was renovated this summer. The DNR accuses the school district and the contractor of failure to remove all asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) from the school. The defendants are also accused of failing to wet asbestos and failing to discard of it into airtight containers.
The renovation project occurred at Cedar Rapids’ Washington High School. This summer, the DNR started investigations into the renovation after an undisclosed person filed a complaint. Although the district claims that no students or staff members were exposed to asbestos, the DNR states that potential for asbestos exposure was three times higher than average. A list put together by the DNR asserts that the school district and contractor:
- Used a negative air machine in December, 2014, while cleaning up an area used to contain asbestos. In turn, asbestos reportedly permeated throughout one of the school’s hallways instead of outside.
- Failed to contain asbestos which resulted in a girl’s locker room failing an asbestos air quality test in April, 2015.
- According to a company hired to investigate, there was a “substantial amount of asbestos debris scattered throughout the boiler room floor.”
Court documents also indicate that at least 7 subcontracting companies, which included 119 construction workers, were working at the school during the summer months, during a time which the asbestos levels showed to be extremely high.
In response to the accusations, the school district responded,
“At this time the district has not been provided with any information indicating that any individual has tested positive for asbestos as a result of their presence on the job site.”
Meanwhile, a recent reports indicates that schools in Massachusetts also have an asbestos problem. The Boston Globe reports that it seems as if Massachusetts school districts are ignoring the laws in the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act. In fact, over the past seven years, 41 percent of the 280 schools inspected for asbestos received violations. To make matters worse, many of the schools built with asbestos aren’t being monitored efficiently due to insufficient funds to conduct inspections of the thousands of schools created with ACMs.
According to US Senator Edward J. Markey, the schools that contain are also to blame as they aren’t reporting annually to the state as they should. In addition, he states that it’s not only a problem in Massachusetts, but across the nation.
“When it comes to asbestos in our schools, we know too little, but what we do know indicates we have a widespread problem in addressing this toxic threat, both in Massachusetts and across the country. Decades of inaction have put students and teachers at risk of asbestos exposure.”
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