Asbestos Investigation Prompts Emergency Funds for Philladelphia Schools
Responding to an undercover investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News during which serious asbestos hazards were discovered in several dilapidated schools, Philly School District officials announced today that they would allot more than $15 million in emergency funds towards cleaning up the mess.
Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, along with Mayor Jim Kenney and District Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., said they are directing millions in newly-established emergency funds to help clean up problems with hazardous materials such as damaged lead paint and asbestos, found inside some of the district’s most rundown schools in the most troubled neighborhoods in Philadelphia.
“The more than $15 million investment that begins the cleanup of toxic conditions in Philadelphia schools is long overdue and it’s a huge win for our children,” State Senator Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.) said in a press release Thursday night.
“Reporters interviewed 120 people, including teachers, parents, students and nurses, to detail conditions in schools,” explains an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. “They also enlisted staffers at 19 dilapidated schools to collect wipe samples of surfaces to test for lead in dust, asbestos fibers and mold spores. In nine schools, the lab results revealed elevated numbers of asbestos fibers on floors in gyms, classrooms and hallways.”
In all, the investigation by the newspapers, entitled Toxic City: Sick Schools, uncovered some 9,000 environmental problems in the schools that were investigated.
Families were then given online access to information about the problems, which prompted many parents to contact the district once they realized the scope of the hazards their children were encountering each day.
It is hoped that the district will be able to address the worst of the problems in their entirety during the summer months while no students are inside the buildings.
Bids from contractors interested in doing the clean-up are due by next week and then work should begin on both lead paint and asbestos abatement.
“This is a top priority for us. This is a big deal for us. We have schools that need attention,” said Hite, even though he and other officials had originally called the newspapers’ testing methods outdated, unscientific, and unreliable.