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Archdiocese of D.C. to Improve Asbestos Management in Schools

Release Date: 11/21/2006
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543

PHILADELPHIA -- In a consent agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. has settled alleged violations of a federal law regulating the management of asbestos materials in school buildings.

EPA cited the Archdiocese for violations of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (or AHERA), which were discovered during May 2005 inspections of 10 of the Archdiocese’s 80 schools. After notification of the violations, the Archdiocese promptly agreed to correct problems with asbestos management plans for all 80 of its schools by January 2007. EPA determined that no students or other building occupants were exposed to asbestos as a result of the alleged violations.

“The resolution of this case shows a positive new direction in enforcement and compliance,” said Donald S. Welsh, EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional administrator. “EPA inspected a small sample of schools and found violations. The Archdiocese quickly agreed to invest funds to go above and beyond compliance in all of its schools to ensure that its students and staff are protected. This is a win-win for everyone.”

AHERA requires schools to develop a management plan for asbestos-containing building materials (such as insulation, wall paneling and floor tiles) specifying safeguards to prevent the release of asbestos fibers. Schools must annually notify parent, teacher, and employee organizations about the availability of the asbestos management plan. The law also requires schools to survey asbestos-containing building materials, conduct twice-yearly surveillance and tri-annual inspections of these materials, and train custodial and maintenance staff personnel on AHERA compliance.

EPA’s May 2005 inspections found that nine of the 10 schools did not perform the required six-month periodic surveillance of asbestos-containing materials and did not provide annual notification of the asbestos management plans. All 10 schools had failed to update their management plans to include information about personnel training. The inspection of the St. Francis DeSales School in Washington, D.C. revealed that two buildings housing a preschool and a kindergarten had never been inspected for asbestos.

EPA has reviewed the Archdiocese’s revised management plans for the 10 previously-inspected schools, and 10 other randomly selected schools. The Archdiocese agreed to correct the minor management plan deficiencies identified in EPA’s follow-up review.

In cooperation with state and local officials, EPA’s Region III office in Philadelphia ensures AHERA compliance in Maryland, the District, and other mid-Atlantic states, through compliance assistance activities, inspections, and, when necessary, administrative penalty actions. Under the law, EPA may agree to reduce or eliminate penalties due to the schools’ cooperation with EPA, compliance activities and expenditures.

EPA has agreed to a “no penalty” settlement because of the Archdiocese’s cooperation with AHERA compliance bringing all of its schools into compliance by investing $72,000 in documented compliance expenditures. As part of the settlement, the Archdiocese neither admitted nor denied the alleged violations.

The combined results of the AHERA cases EPA has recently settled with 10 school districts is due in large part to the districts’ willingness to cooperate to protect students and staff. The agency’s inspection of 137 schools has resulted in agreements that will bring 1019 schools into compliance.

For more information on asbestos in schools, visit EPA’s website at