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School Officials Charged Over Asbestos, Lead


By Dan Hounsell IAQ
asbestos warning tape

As if COVID-19 and Legionnaire’s disease aren’t challenging enough for schools these days.

The former superintendent of a Pennsylvania school district and two other officials recently were charged with felony child endangerment over allegations they covered up lead and asbestos contamination in the schools and exposed students and staff to serious health risks, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Starting in 2016, officials in the Scranton (Pa.) School District were repeatedly told about dangerous lead levels in drinking water in at least 10 schools but failed to ensure tainted water fountains and sinks were disconnected or remediated and misled the public about the problem, according to a grand jury presentment.

Former Superintendent Alexis Kirijan and former Director of Operations Jeffrey Brazil also knew that inspectors had found dangerous levels of asbestos in dozens of locations, including classrooms, restrooms and a cafeteria, but did little about it, the grand jury said. Kirijan, Brazil and a current maintenance supervisor, Joseph Slack, were charged with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of children.

At one point, Guzek detected lead in more than half the 303 sinks and water fountains his company tested, the grand jury said. Guzek also uncovered 74 places in district buildings that were “near the highest levels of danger” for asbestos.

A school principal told Kirijan and Brazil that ceilings in several classrooms had collapsed, sending plaster and dust onto students and their desks and books, the grand jury said. Kirijan told the principal to stop emailing her about the problem and to instead communicate by phone, the report said. 

Dan Hounsell is editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions.

 

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