Several Connecticut schools in 2017 discovered asbestos that required removal. Schools including the Fred D. Wish Museum School in Hartford, Connecticut and West Haven High School in West Haven, Connecticut were closed for a designated period of time to inspect and go through the abatement removal process. The Children’s Community School in Waterbury, Connecticut also closed for a period of time to inspect for lead and potential asbestos, but the Department of Public Health later indicated there was no asbestos found.
The discovery of asbestos in schools is not so surprising considering close to half of schools in the U.S. were built between 1950 and 1969. What is somewhat surprising is the reaction from concerned parents about the asbestos found in their child’s schools. Some parents have even vocalized possible litigation even though no removal of asbestos took place while students were physically on school grounds.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued several rules and regulations concerning the proper handling of asbestos in schools highlighting what to do and not to do. These include the Asbestos In-Schools Rule in 1982, the Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Act (ASHAA) in 1984, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) in 1986 and the Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Reauthorization Act (ASHARA) in 1990. These various rules and regulations lay out standards for the inspection and abatement process of asbestos and provides some opportunities for funding these efforts. Recently the EPA awarded grants totaling $631,000 for five New England state agencies (Connecticut, Rhode, Island and Massachusetts being three of them) to ensure there is proper maintenance of asbestos containing materials in schools.
The Connecticut State Department of Public Health and the Connecticut State Agencies also have regulations in place for asbestos containing materials in Connecticut schools. Section 19a-333-1 to Section 19a-333-13 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies require, among other things, for schools to inspect for the presence of asbestos containing building material (ACBM) every six months, and document any change in condition of ACBM. Each school must also have an Asbestos Management Plan (AMP) and a designated person to ensure the AMP is followed. Additionally, the regulations dictate two hours of awareness training for maintenance and custodial staff in the schools.
Even without students present during asbestos removal, litigation is always possible. Defendants, including construction companies and municipalities should keep an eye out and ensure any removal of asbestos is done properly to comply with all rules sand regulations. When litigating in Connecticut, defense counsel should investigate possible plaintiff exposure from the construction, renovation of or attendance at a Connecticut school known to contain Asbestos.