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Report: Students possibly exposed to asbestos at Cedar Rapids school

The DNR released findings of an investigation into the asbestos at Cedar Rapids Washington High School.
The DNR released findings of an investigation into the asbestos at Cedar Rapids Washington High School.(KCRG)
Published: Dec. 7, 2015 at 11:36 PM CST
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Some students and staff at Washington High School may have had exposure to asbestos during renovations last school year, according to an Iowa Department of Natural Resources investigation into the Cedar Rapids school's construction work.

The state is considering legal action against the Cedar Rapids school district and an asbestos removal company in Cedar Rapids.

Over the summer, the Department of Natural Resources started an investigation after someone made a complaint.

The DNR said the company the district hired to remove asbestos, Abatement Specialties, failed on multiple levels and eventually the DNR told the district it had to fire that company.

The violations include failing to remove asbestos-containing material before demolition, failing to keep asbestos containing material adequately wet and failure to seal asbestos containing material.

The district has insisted this problem never exposed students or school staff, but the litigation report the DNR put together cited three times potential asbestos exposure happened during the school year:

In December 2014: Abatement Specialties used a negative air machine when cleaning up an asbestos containment area that was exhausting into the school hallway rather than outside, but it's unknown whether any of that exhaust air had asbestos in it.

In April 2015: Three tests in the women's locker room failed — two due to particulate overload and one due to high asbestos counts — but it's unknown whether any students of staff had access to the area.

In May 2015: The company hired to check on asbestos levels, Shive-Hattery, found a "substantial amount of asbestos debris scattered throughout the boiler room floor." — but it's unknown whether anyone other than construction workers were near.

DNR litigation report also says at least 119 construction workers and seven subcontracting companies were on the school site in June and July when more testing showed high levels of asbestos.

The district responded Monday with a statement that reads in part, "at this time the district has not been provided with any information indicating that any individual has tested positive for asbestos as a result of their presence on the job site."

Cedar Rapids Community School District statement:

Student and staff safety has been and continues to be the top priority of the Cedar Rapids Community School District.

The District was notified today (Dec. 7, 2015) that the meeting with the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission scheduled for Dec. 15 has been postponed. A rescheduled date and time has not been finalized. The District has received a copy of the public litigation report and is reviewing it with legal counsel to develop a plan to discuss the concerns raised by the Department of Natural Resources.

Throughout the course of the District’s interaction with the DNR, the District has cooperated with the DNR and taken action consistent with the DNR’s directives to insure the safety of the job site immediately upon receipt of the DNR’s directives. In addition, the District has worked with the DNR, the project architect, and the contractors on site to provide a safe work environment while continuing to work on keeping the project on schedule. At this time the District has not been provided with any information indicating that any individual has tested positive for asbestos as a result of their presence at the job site.

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