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Asbestos Management - Summary

The Burlington Board of Health (BOH) began to review and monitor asbestos management within the local public schools in May 1995. The discovery of improper asbestos abatement conducted by the school maintenance staff at two local elementary schools piqued the Board's interest in this issue. Unfortunately, the maintenance personnel had manually removed asbestos insulation in a dry, friable state from the boilers located at two elementary schools without using personal protective equipment, or containment and decontamination procedures. The asbestos was then moved to the high school and stored dry in open, unlabelled cardboard boxes and trash bags. As a result, the maintenance staff endangered themselves and placed the occupants of three schools at risk. This collection of errors caused the BOH to assume a much more active role in promoting proper asbestos management at the local schools.

This section provides a general discussion of BOH experiences involving asbestos management as well as a general summary of the requirements of the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1987 (AHERA). AHERA mandates specific asbestos training and management requirements that must be implemented by all school districts which maintain buildings constructed with asbestos containing material. If the building was constructed prior to 1980, then it is likely that asbestos is present in the building. The intent of these requirements is to prevent the uncontrolled release of asbestos.

The most significant observations noted by the BOH include: a) asbestos is present in all local schools, b) asbestos may be present in a variety of construction materials, and c) despite several thorough reviews, BOH continues to locate additional asbestos containing material. These findings have raised concerns during building renovation and remodeling activities as well as the inspection and repair of the heating and ventilation system where asbestos was found to line some of the ductwork.

Based on BOH experience, a comprehensive survey is recommended to identify and label all asbestos containing material to ensure the proper management of these materials.

prepared by Todd H. Dresser, Environmental Engineer
(formerly of)
Burlington Board of Health, 29 Center Street, Burlington, MA 01803

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