In accordance with new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, school officials in Maryland fear that they may need to test every pipe, tile, and wall put into the state’s school buildings.
According to an article in the Daily Times, state schools have relied in the past on material safety data sheets that are supplied by manufacturers in order to determine if hazardous materials, including asbestos, are in the products they are buying.
But now the EPA says it never accepted the manufacturer’s data sheets as proof of the presence of asbestos, and that they would also not be accepted in the future. Schools say that requiring them, instead of the manufacturer, to determine whether or not a product contains asbestos is an unfair burden that would be impossible to meet.
“The EPA doesn’t go after the manufacturer,” said Ray Prokop, director of facilities for Carroll County Public Schools. “The schools are the ones paying the fines and required to do the policing.
“Just imagine, everything that goes into our schools we have to test and somehow verify,” Prokop said.
According to the article, the EPA said schools can test all the materials they use, but they can also choose not to, if they prefer. “If schools do not test all new building materials for asbestos, they either need a manufacturer’s letter certifying the product is asbestos-free or they must assume that the materials contain the dangerous fiber,” EPA spokesperson Donna Heron explained.
“The practical reality of it is that if they assume that it contains asbestos, all they are really required to do is to note that in their management plan,” Heron said.
But school officials say that untested materials noted in asbestos management plans are unlikely to contain the carcinogen, but listing them as such would greatly complicate any repairs and renovations that may have to be made.
“If you assume there is asbestos, the smallest repair you make, you have to either abate asbestos, which might not be there, or you might have to set up very involved protection,” said David Lever, director of Maryland’s public school construction program.
“The new structure, which does not allow for MSDS sheets, has huge consequences on school systems and buildings,” Lever said.