Asbestos contamination in NOLA schools was revealed in at least the third incident this year. According to “The Lens” and “Louisiana Weekly”, this most recent find was at the Rosenwald school, set to open as Rosenwald Collegiate Academy in August of this year for high school students.
Though no students were present when the asbestos was detected, Senior Environmental Scientist Dwight Bradshaw told “The Lens”, “If you’re following the regulations you should not have had this contamination throughout the building. It shouldn’t have happened.” The asbestos contamination was found as contractors began evaluating damaged floor tiles.
A series of problems with asbestos contamination in NOLA schools
In 2016 and 2017, the Lafayette Academy building in Uptown New Orleans underwent remodeling that led to the disturbance of asbestos. In 2018, the building released uncontained asbestos into the air as protocols were once again not followed.
This led to Lafayette Academy students’ reassignment to the McDonogh 35 building on Kerlerec Street for the 2018-2019 school year. Parents were wary about this change as the McDonogh 35 building was older than the Lafayette building and also contained known asbestos and was undergoing remediation throughout the summer. The school opened in August, however parents were concerned that they were not allowed a walk-through before their children began classes.
The students who were to begin classes in the Rosenwald building are attending classes in a temporary location this school year while remediation continues in the Rosenwald building.
What agency is responsible?
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) would like that answer – especially since there is a management plan for asbestos in place that any contractor working on a building should follow. The Rosenwald building was controlled by the Recovery School District (RSD). That responsibility transferred to the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) on April 1, 2018. In addition, the OPSD gave access to Collegiate Academies, the charter network planning to open Rosenwald Academy in the building this past August. Both the OPSB and RSD had workers in the building when asbestos fibers were released. The Collegiate Academies had contractors in the building to assess the floor tiles needing replacement. This is when the air quality was tested and determined to contain asbestos requiring abatement and remediation.
Clean-up at Rosenwald will cost the OPSD $1.3 million. In addition, a contract for $700,000 was approved between the OPSD and MMG, an environmental firm, to manage asbestos problems at Rosenwald.
Why spend so much on asbestos abatement?
Asbestos, left undisturbed, is not an immediate problem. However, when it is disturbed, such as in remodeling, storm damage, or wear and tear, asbestos fibers are released into the air. When inhaled, these fibers can embed into the lungs and linger for years, or decades, before creating havoc for the victim. This can show up as asbestosis, lung cancer, or the fatal malignant mesothelioma. No one should be knowingly exposed to this deadly fiber. The environment must be made safe or a new location found.