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San Gabriel Valley Digest

Pomona : Asbestos Removal Ordered

October 10, 1985

The school board has ordered the removal of asbestos insulation in five schools after a report released last week showed that the cancer-causing mineral was present in 31 of the 32 schools in the Pomona Unified School District.

The five "critical" schools in the district, a district administrator said, contain friable asbestos, a decayed form of the substance that is brittle and more likely to release breathable fibers.

None of the asbestos is considered dangerous in its present state, although experts say the decayed asbestos in the five schools would begin releasing the toxic fibers within 5 to 10 years if not removed.

An independent laboratory, Hall-Kimbrell Environmental Services of South El Monte, was hired by the district this summer to check the schools for contamination, and found insulation containing from 2% to 85% asbestos in the walls and ceilings and around water heaters and other fixtures in the schools. Richard L. Donoghue, assistant superintendent for business services, said federal law requires only that school districts check for asbestos and notify parents if it is present, although it provides no legal recourse for parents concerned for the safety of their children. Notification packets were being prepared Wednesday for mailing to parents.

School board members ordered the removal, because they were concerned about future hazards, he said.

"Legally we could leave it there," said board member Nancy McCracken. "But it isn't enough to be legal. We're trying to do the right thing."

Nina Mangrich, president of the Pomona PTA Council, said she has received no inquiries from parents about the asbestos. "I see no panic," she said. "There doesn't seem to be any scare about it."

Donoghue said classes at the five schools will be conducted normally during the asbestos removal, which he expects to begin in December after the district hires a private contractor to do the work.

Most schools in the district were constructed between 1950 and 1970, before asbestos was known to be a carcinogen, Donoghue said. He said only the district's newest school, Decker Elementary, does not contain asbestos.

The five "critical" schools are Alcott Elementary, Harrison Elementary, Marshall Jr. High School, Pomona High School and Ganesha High.

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