On October 22, 1986, President Reagan signed into law the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA).
The law required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop regulations providing a comprehensive framework for addressing asbestos problems in public and private elementary and secondary schools. On October 30, 1987, EPA published the Asbestos-Containing Materials in Schools Rule. This new rule requires all public and private elementary and secondary schools to inspect for friable and non-friable asbestos, develop asbestos management plans that address asbestos hazards in school buildings, and implement response actions in a timely fashion.
Schools must use accredited persons to carry out activities involving inspections, management plans, and response actions. By October 12, 1988, public and private (including church-operated) elementary and secondary schools have the following obligations: (1) have an accredited inspector complete an initial inspection to locate all asbestos-containing building materials (ACBM), and (2) have an accredited management planner develop and submit to a state agency (designated by the governor) an asbestos management plan that includes the results of the inspection. No later than July 9, 1989, schools must begin to implement their management plan.
In addition, schools have certain obligations immediately, including having custodial and maintenance staff members receive training prior to conducting activities that may disturb asbestos, and posting warning labels in maintenance areas where asbestos was previously identified.
A bill has been introduced in the United States Senate (S.2024) that would postpone the implementation deadline of July 9, 1989 to July 9, 1990. Churches having elementary or secondary schools should contact the nearest EPA office (or call the EPA hotline at 1-202-554-1404) and obtain the helpful book entitled "Asbestos-in-Schools: A Guide to New Federal Requirements for Local Education Agencies." This book provides very clear guidance as to the responsibilities of public and private schools under the new law. Note that the penalty for failure to conduct an inspection by an accredited inspector by October 12, 1988, or to develop and submit to the appropriate state agency an asbestos management plan by the same date, is potentially $5,000 per day per violation.
Some church-operated schools are having a staff member become accredited to conduct the initial inspection and to prepare and submit the management plan. In some cases, associations or groups of schools are designating one individual to become accredited as an inspector and management planner, with the understanding that this person will then assist all of the schools in the group in complying with the October 12, 1988 requirements. You may contact your regional asbestos coordinator to obtain a current list of EPA-approved training courses in your area (regional asbestos coordinators are identified in EPA book described above .