Large quantities of asbestos and other hazardous waste products were found at a facility just hundreds of feet away from Mountain View High School, officials announced on Thursday.
In a combined effort, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) are investigating the illegal waste transport facility where between 600 and 800 bags of asbestos and toxic waste were found.
Titan Environmental Inc. is the company being investigated for the waste violation. It may face penalties of $25,000 for each day that the company operated, says the DTSC.
California law prohibits that any hazardous waste facility be located within 500 feet of any school.
Asbestos exposure has been known to cause diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and other conditions.
Local officials, parents and students learned about the waste violation today via recorded phone message, according to school officials.
Threat to Students
The dangers of asbestos have been well understood since the 1960s, but he material was used in various products that were manufactured before then. The waste products located at Titan’s facility haven’t been specifically identified.
“They were not supposed to be storing waste there. They were operating as a hazardous waste transporter and they did not have the proper permits,” said Jeanne Garcia of the DTSC, referring to Titan Environmental Inc.
Air samples were taken by AQMD after the discovery was made in February, but asbestos fibers were not found to be present in the samples.
Titan is located just northwest of the high school’s football field and running track. Exposure of the hazardous waste could presumptively occur between areas near the school or in the school, if the toxic materials were not properly packaged.
Asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma have been known to take up to 50 years to develop after initial exposure. However, because local environmental officials have cited that ‘no asbestos is being released,’ the nearby community and students are stated to be at no risk of health issues.
Both agencies now have been tasked with developing a plan to properly dispose of the toxic waste.
“We are still in the throes of an investigation,” said Garcia.
Officials from both environmental agencies met with school personnel last week to discuss the issue. Superintendent Nick Salerno stated that no students or staff of Mountain View High School have reported feeling sick.
“We are counting on them [DTSC and AQMD] to do a good job. It sounded like they did.”
The investigation stems from an anonymous complaint that the DTSC received on February 8 that mentioned Titan. The tip prompted an unannounced inspection on February 11 of the waste transport facility.
Asbestos in Schools: A Bigger Problem
This incident is not the first report of asbestos in or around schools. Cases of potential asbestos exposure have been discovered at schools across the nation, from the elementary to the university level.
In September 2011, a New York City elementary school had to evacuate and relocate 100 kindergarten students after asbestos was found in the school.
In 2008 a Massachusetts high school had to undergo massive asbestos abatement during a reconstruction project. Officials spent a total of $14 million for a demolition, up from the estimated $7.2 million, after asbestos was found throughout various walls in the school.
More recently and more local to Mountain View High School, California State University Northridge was found to have asbestos in 18 different buildings on the campus in January of this year.
The list goes on.
The history of asbestos use in schools dates back to the widespread use of the material in construction products, which was a prevalent during the mid-20th century. Because of its insulating and heat-resistant properties, the toxic material was desirable for integration into walls, piping, flooring, tiling and countless other products.