School District in Pennsylvania accused of burying asbestos near elementary school

26 Sep 2014 by under News

asbestos warning 100x100 School District in Pennsylvania accused of burying asbestos near elementary schoolThe Board of the School District in Lehigh County, Penn., is disputing charges that the district violated environmental laws by burying construction waste containing a cancer-causing carcinogen, asbestos. In the summer of 2013, several dump-truck loads of construction debris were discarded in an area of woods just west of Wescosville Elementary School in Lower Macungie Township. School officials are claiming that they do not know who dumped the debris near their property, but after the pile was discovered, they authorized the burial of the debris in a clay-lined pit on the same site.

Two residents of the area and one school board member are accusing the district of illegally covering up a crime by burying the debris instead of notifying authorities. Alan Earnshaw, school board president, stated that characterizing what happened as illegal acts is “a reckless misstatement of the facts.” Debate about the origin of the debris, the decision to bury it and the possible hazards associated with the type of asbestos found in the pile has left residents, parents, and board members searching for someone to blame. The school board reports that they have been assured by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the debris will not cause harm to anyone in the area, whether it stays in the ground or whether it is removed.

East Penn’s superintendent, J. Michael Schilder, claims that he found out about the buried materials in early August, just a month after he became the school district’s superintendent. A few weeks later, he contacted the school board and recommended that the material be properly removed and disposed of by a certified asbestos remediation firm. On Sept. 8, the school board voted to hire ALM Abatement Services of Coopersburg to remove the debris, costing the school district more than $18,000. The removal of the debris will require a section of soil about 26 feet wide, 30 feet long and four feet deep to be excavated. The construction debris is buried underneath eight to ten inches of clay and should be safely removed in early October. Both the DEP and EPA will have representatives on the site when the debris is excavated and will take action if they see something that could indicate a more severe problem.

Generally, asbestos has no safe level of exposure, causing more than 107,000 deaths worldwide each year. For decades, these mineral has been used in thousands of products such as insulation, fireproofing materials, automotive brakes, textiles, cement, and wallboard materials. When broken or crushed, asbestos particles may remain in the air, and the inhalation or ingestion of these particles leads to devastating sickness.

Though asbestos has been proven to cause mesothelioma cancer, the use of the material is not in the United States as it is in 55 other countries. Safety regarding exposure to asbestos is a priority for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They invite anyone to contact them regarding asbestos exposure and removal procedure in the workplace.

Sources:
WFMZ News
East Penn School District
CDC
OSHA

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