Design and Construction, Maintenance and Operations, Safety

EPA Orders Ohio Schools to Address Asbestos and Lead Paint Hazards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an agreement with Accel Schools Ohio LLC to address lead paint concerns and asbestos at three of its schools in Ohio: Youngstown Academy of Excellence, Niles Preparatory Academy, and STEAM Academy of Warren.

Accel is a public charter school system that operates 77 in-person charter schools, primarily in Ohio, and 15 online schools across the nation. Under the EPA’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act authority to address conditions which may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment, the order requires Accel to take the following actions at the three Ohio schools:

  • Restrict access to the school buildings. Certain areas of the buildings can begin to open once testing confirms the area is free of asbestos and lead paint hazards.
  • Notify parents of the concerns.
  • Fully assess and abate asbestos and lead-based paint hazards.

“EPA is holding Accel accountable to protect students and staff from asbestos and lead exposure,” said EPA Regional Administrator Debra Shore. “Children deserve healthy school environments where they can focus on learning. EPA will continue to work to reduce lead and asbestos hazards in Ohio and across the United States.” 

Blood lead testing can accurately measure children’s exposure to lead, including lead paint. The EPA is working with state and local health officials to establish resources for affected families. The Youngstown City Health District hosted a free blood lead testing event on June 25 for students who attend Youngstown Academy of Excellence. Concerned parents and guardians can contact their pediatrician or primary healthcare provider for information on blood lead testing. 

The order sets timelines to ensure that any needed inspection, abatement, and clearance work is completed prior to allowing students, faculty, or staff to enter affected areas of the school buildings, with the goal of having this work completed by the start of the 2024/25 school year. It also requires Accel to continue reporting to the EPA regarding asbestos and lead-based paint conditions at the three schools for five years after completion of the work required under the order.

After receiving a complaint and conducting inspections, the EPA issued a notice of violation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to Accel for asbestos concerns at the schools on June 13. Invoking TSCA, EPA has subpoenaed Accel for records regarding its compliance with the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) and lead-based paint renovation regulations in all its brick-and-mortar schools in Ohio and Michigan.  AHERA requires public school districts, charter schools, and schools affiliated with religious institutions to inspect their schools for asbestos, prepare management plans, and take action to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards. AHERA also requires schools to notify parents about potential hazards inside the buildings.

ALSO READ: Back to Basics: How to Address Lead Paint in Your Facilities

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