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Asbestos-containing waste found near California high school

California environmental officials found hundreds of bags of asbestos-containing waste outside a warehouse next to a suburban Los Angeles high school.


Acting on an anonymous tip, inspectors from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control and the South Coast Air Quality Management District inspected Titan Environmental Inc. in El Monte last month. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports the agencies discovered 600-800 bags of stored waste that was found to contain asbestos, a known carcinogen.


Operating a hazardous waste facility within 500 feet of a school is illegal in California. Violators could face fines of up to $25,000 dollars a day.


A spokesperson for the DTSC, which manages hazardous waste disposal, told the Valley Tribune that Titan Environmental was operating as a hazardous waste transporter, but did not have the proper permits. "They were not supposed to be storing waste there,” she said.


The AQMD collected 15 air samples at three locations around the perimeter of the site, which is directly northwest of Mountain View High School. The samples were taken on five separate days in February. No asbestos fibers were found, and in a written statement, the agencies said the site "does not currently pose a hazard to the community." More air sampling will be conducted once clean-up activities start at the site.


Inspectors secured the bags of waste and placed them inside the warehouse. The area also was covered with tarps to prevent waste particles from becoming airborne. Titan has complied with orders to stop accepting deliveries of asbestos-containing waste and to stop removing or transporting waste from the site.


The agencies have issued a notice to the nearby community, and officials with DTSC and AQMD met with representatives from the school last week. Nick Salerno, superintendent of the El Monte Union High School District, told the Valley Tribune the district would update parents on the situation via recorded phone message.


No complaints or reports of illness by students or staff have been reported, he said. Of the state agencies, Salerno said, "We are counting on them to do a good job. It sounded like they did."


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has regulated asbestos since the 1970s. A naturally occurring mineral, asbestos was used to make household products and building materials, but has been banned or restricted in most products since 1989.


Asbestos-containing material is not considered harmful unless it is disturbed or becomes “friable,” or crumbled, which results in the release of dangerous fibers into the air. Exposure to the fibers increases the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare, incurable disease that attacks the lining of the lungs and abdomen.