The Escondido Union School District has paid a fine of $12,000 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because it failed to report exposed asbestos in four schools, the agency announced Tuesday.
The fine stems from EPA charges that the school district violated the Toxic Substances Control Act, which requires that schools report any suspicion of asbestos to the EPA. The EPA cited the presence of asbestos in pipe wrappings at Rose, Conway and Lincoln elementary schools as well as in the walls and ceiling of the Grant Middle School auditorium, school district officials said. The settlement also requires the district to prove that record-keeping violations have been corrected. The district spent more than $65,000 removing the asbestos from the schools.
“We think it’s kind of foolish for a government agency that uses taxpayers’ money to fine another agency that depends on taxes,” said district Superintendent Don Hout. “We would have liked the EPA’s expertise (in spotting the asbestos), but that’s not the way the law is written.”
Hout said the district was relieved that the EPA did not impose the maximum fine of $25,000 for each offense. EPA officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Asbestos was commonly used as insulating material until the 1960s, when it was linked to lung cancer and other diseases.