South Dakota Schools May Have Asbestos In Drinking Water

A total of 23 schools in the Rapid City, South Dakota school district have asbestos within theirs walls, ceilings, and other areas. The district is now concerned that asbestos may possibly in the schools’ drinking water, as pipes were once coated with the mineral. In turn, the district ordered tests on all of the water fixtures in each building.

backpack on school bench

The Rapid City Journal reports that  Rapid City district spokesperson Katy Urban said the test is only routine, and since the water hasn’t been tested recently, they just want to ensure that there aren’t any dangers.

“The asbestos tests are routine and the water sampling is something we just feel we need to do because it’s been awhile. There wasn’t a specific incident that prompted the testing.”

The testing, which likely begin in November, will test the 23 schools’ water fountains, fixtures, pipes, and faucets. According to the manager of Rapid City School District’s buildings and grounds, Kip Clive, the water was tested for lead in 1988, and the results were favorable.

“I expect the test to come back very favorably given that we tested everything in 1988-89,” said Clive. “I would expect these tests to be very favorable. We just feel it’s pertinent to do a sampling.”

The asbestos testing is part of the requirements that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set forth for all public, non-profit, and charter schools in the nation, which requires that each school (determined to contain asbestos) must create, develop, and maintain an active asbestos plan at all times. Per the The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), schools must be regularly inspected for asbestos issues, and should an issue be found, a management plan should be readily available to take care of the problems.

Other AHERA requirements include:

  • Providing annual notifications to parents, teachers, and employee organizations regarding school’s asbestos management plan, including any actions schedule to take place
  • Routine surveillance of the areas in the school where there is known asbestos-containing materials
  • Designating a contact person who can oversee the management plan, answer questions, and ensure that the asbestos regulations are being properly implemented
  • Providing asbestos awareness and safety training to the custodial staff

The EPA reports that there is asbestos in most of the nation’s schools that were constructed prior to the early to mid-1980s. It was once commonly used in schools for insulation purposes, and for its resistance to heat and fire. It can be found all over schools, including in floor and ceiling tiles, roofs, furnace rooms, bathrooms, gyms, and more. Although there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, it poses minimal threat as long as its contained and not disturbed.

If asbestos is disturbed, however, tiny, odorless asbestos fibers can quickly permeate throughout the air, and students and staff can inhale the fibers without even knowing it. Asbestos exposure has been to life-threatening illnesses, such as malignant mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, and asbestosis.

The Facilities Committee urged the Rapid City School District to set aside $1 million annually, for the next five years, to take care of any asbestos issues within its schools. The following Rapid City schools have been confirmed to contain asbestos:

  • Canyon Lake West Elementary
  • Canyon Lake East Elementary
  • Grandview Elementary
  • Horace Mann Elementary
  • Knollwood Elementary
  • Meadowbrook Elementary
  • Pinedale Elementary
  • Rapid Valley Elementary
  • Robbinsdale Elementary
  • South Canyon Elementary
  • South Park Elementary
  • Woodrow Wilson Elementary
  • North Middle
  • South Middle
  • West Middle
  • Rapid City High, formerly Dakota Middle School
  • Central High
  • Stevens High
  • Jefferson Academy
  • Abraham Lincoln Academy

Help and Resources for Asbestos Victims

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