By Matt Cortina
More than two-thirds of the 600 K-12 public schools in Orange County have encapsulated asbestos present in at least one of their buildings. And in a recent Orange County Grand Jury report, “Dealing with Asbestos in Orange County Public Schools,” the Jury issued recommendations “for safely removing asbestos and other hazardous materials” from county schools.
The Jury cited potential renovations, spurred by bond measures—including the proposed $889 million CUSD school improvement bond—as one potential catalyst for asbestos exposure. As is, however, the report “strongly (cautioned) that current EPA standards provide the mere presence of encapsulated asbestos at a school site does not present any immediate danger to schoolchildren or staff at the site.”
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is unsafe for humans when we are exposed to it outside of its safer encapsulated form. The Grand Jury came to its findings by interviewing school parents, staff and board members. Its cleanup recommendations for school districts included holding at least one monthly meeting about dealing with hazardous materials; developing communication plans with parents; developing comprehensive plans for construction, particularly those that involve asbestos-laden areas; designating certain people to take EPA training; and more.
The full report can be viewed at www.ocgrandjury.com. The Grand Jury recommended that their suggestions occur within nine months of the release of the report.