Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Region 9

Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Naturally Occurring Asbestos

Addressing NOA at Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado County

In 2002, grading for soccer fields at Oak Ridge High School disturbed a vein of amphibole asbestos. Lack of irrigation water prevented the school district from covering the new fields immediately with sod, leading to concerns about exposure of the campus community to asbestos. In 2003, in response to state of California (State) and county of El Dorado (County) requirements, the El Dorado Union High School District took actions to assess and reduce the potential for exposure to asbestos from soils on the campus, including testing sports facilities on the campus for asbestos releases.

One air sampling event in July 2003, conducted by a contractor hired by the El Dorado Union High School District, demonstrated the potential for significant exposure to airborne asbestos from activities such as outdoor athletics and construction and maintenance. Subsequently, the school district, under State and County oversight, took further mitigation actions, including covering certain areas of the campus with clean fill and cleaning classrooms.

UPDATE: EPA Asbestos Removal Action at ORHS Completed

On Oct. 8, 2004, the EPA sent to the El Dorado Union High School District a letter saying that the agency had completed its response to the asbestos contamination on the grounds of Oak Ridge High School. The EPA declared the removal action closed when sampling in the school classrooms showed no elevated asbestos levels.

EPA Involvement

Photo of:
Mitigation work underway by cleanup contractors

In the spring and summer of 2003, U.S. EPA’s role at Oak Ridge High School was to provide technical assistance to the County’s Environmental Management Department, the lead regulatory agency overseeing the school district's asbestos cleanup efforts.

That changed in October 2003, when U.S. EPA, in response to citizen’s concerns, requested that El Dorado Union High School District sample soils in previously untested outdoor areas of the campus for asbestos. When the school district declined U.S. EPA’s request, U.S. EPA decided to conduct the sampling. The federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act's (CERCLA) definition of a hazardous substance includes asbestos, which gives U.S. EPA the authority to take action where disturbed asbestos presents a threat, or a potential threat, to human health or the environment. Although CERCLA does not provide a standard for regulating asbestos exposure, U.S. EPA may consider the risks posed to the community and tailor a response to disturbed asbestos.

EPA considers material containing one percent or more of asbestos by weight to be a hazardous substance, although levels of less than one percent in soil can release significant levels of asbestos fibers to the air when disturbed. Of the 158 samples U.S. EPA took at Oak Ridge High School, roughly 25 percent exceeded one percent. When these samples showed the presence of asbestos in soil at levels that, if disturbed, could pose a threat to public health, U.S. EPA determined that additional clean-up work was required.

U.S. EPA notified the school of its findings as soon as they became available in January 2004 and assigned a federal on-scene coordinator. U.S. EPA sent a "general notice" letter (PDF) (4 pp, 24 K) and an information request (PDF) (10 pp, 48 K) to the El Dorado Union High School District on January 15, 2004, and March 19, 2004, respectively, that summarized U.S. EPA's concerns about the asbestos levels at the high school and provided the school district with notice of potential liability under the federal Superfund law.

The information request asked for data to help in analyzing the school district's ability to reimburse federal taxpayers for U.S. EPA's clean-up costs. The U.S. EPA then prepared an Action Memorandum (PDF) (13 pp, 110 K) outlining the scope of the cleanup work.

Top of page

Cleanup Work

Photo of:
Mitigation work underway by cleanup contractors

In February and March of 2004, the school district conducted soil mitigation on ball fields so that the spring sports season was not impacted. The U.S. EPA’s federal on-scene coordinator oversaw the cleanup work. The work included landscaping areas of exposed soil that were of immediate concern. The next phase of the cleanup, covering exposed soil, took place over school vacation in April 2004, as described in the first Pollution Report (linked below). Bare dirt areas next to classrooms were landscaped or paved, access roads throughout the campus were paved, and dirt areas within the central quad area of the campus were covered with concrete. In July 2004, U.S. EPA completed the last phase of the cleanup, also comprised of various projects to cover exposed soil, as described in the pollution reports below.

After completing the outdoor mitigation, EPA tested sixteen randomly selected classrooms, using aggressive air sampling techniques (leaf blowers and box fans) to make sure the levels of airborne asbestos fibers are below cleanup levels to ensure it is safe for students, faculty, and staff to occupy the school. Preliminary data from the July 2004 classroom testing event indicate that only one classroom needed to be cleaned; the other fifteen classrooms had asbestos levels below the cleanup level. The school district cleaned the remaining classroom on August 3, 2004, and EPA retested that classroom on August 5, 2004. Validated data from the classroom sampling will be posted on this Web site when the data validation process is completed.

The school district will be responsible for operation and maintenance of the landscaped areas after the cleanup is completed and has developed an operations and maintenance plan (PDF) (23 pp, 785K). Exiting EPA (disclaimer)

In the future, U.S. EPA will be conducting an assessment of naturally occurring asbestos in El Dorado Hills. The assessment will provide information on the degree of exposure to naturally occurring asbestos in public areas with a focus on areas where children participate in sports and recreational activities. EPA will provide more specific information on the geographic scope of the assessment later this summer.

Top of page

Region 9 NewsroomRegion 9 Programs Grants & FundingUS-Mexico Border Media CenterCareers About Region 9A-Z Index

Jump to main content.