Major Costs of Asbestos Tests in Schools Told

From Times Wire Services

Compliance with federal requirements for testing the asbestos content in school buildings could cost more than $22 million over the next two to three years, Los Angeles school officials said Monday.

Although the Los Angeles Unified School District has already spent more than $7 million to rid schools of the most dangerous asbestos, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is requiring massive inspection programs nationwide, district building and maintenance officials told the school board.

"This is going to be a vast and ongoing responsibility," Margeret Scholl, a maintenance director, told the board.

School officials estimated that, in addition to the $4.7 million already budgeted this year to meet federal standards, the district would have to spend at least another $22 million over the next two to three years.

The district has already removed asbestos materials that crumbled easily in the hand found in classrooms, offices and other areas used routinely by students and staff, officials said.

Now the EPA is requiring schools to test such elements as plaster and floor tiles to determine if they contain any asbestos, which is sometimes used in those materials as a bonding agent, Scholl said.

Such materials do not pose the same kind of health hazard that exposed, crumbling asbestos materials presented, Scholl and others told the board. But the EPA is requiring the testing program anyway as a precautionary measure.

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