A federally mandated search for asbestos in Los Angeles Unified School District buildings has revealed “no big nasty surprises,” district official Margaret Scholl said last week.
Scholl, a director of maintenance, said the district has completed a survey of 801 school sites for evidence of potentially hazardous asbestos, including “secondary asbestos” incorporated in such building materials as ceiling plaster and flooring.
School districts nationwide are required to conduct such surveys under the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, which went into effect late last year.
Under a previous law, the district already had been making annual inspections of schools, looking for asbestos insulation and other forms of primary asbestos. Asbestos is known to cause lung damage.
Scholl said about 10,000 individual buildings were examined during the district survey. More than 60,000 samples were taken from walls, floors and elsewhere and analyzed by a laboratory for the presence of asbestos.
Scholl said the surveyors found asbestos insulation around pipes in one classroom and one school boiler room. Both hazards were eliminated, she said.
“In terms of hazards, we are in an exceptionally good situation,” Scholl said. Friable, or deteriorating, asbestos has been eliminated from student and teacher areas, according to Scholl. Some friable asbestos remains in crawl spaces and attics but does not present a hazard, she said.
Described by Scholl as a “massive effort,” the survey was conducted in large part by district maintenance workers retrained as asbestos surveyors according to Environmental Protection Agency standards. The surveyors wore protective clothing and respirators during the process. After samples were taken, the areas were sealed.
Now that all the sites have been surveyed, the district must prepare asbestos management plans for schools and establish priorities for dealing with any potential danger, Scholl said.
Scholl estimated the cost of the survey and the preparation of the management plans at between $2.5 million and $3 million.
Last week, the Los Angeles school board voted to seek an extension of the original Oct. 12 deadline for submitting the management plans to the state.
Under a federal law passed this summer, districts that obtain an extension will have until May 9, 1989, to submit their asbestos management plans.