More school
asbestos found

Haleiwa Elementary classes are
moved after positive tests on sinks
in nine rooms


Sunday, June 26, 2005

» Twelve sinks in 12 rooms at Haleiwa Elementary School are being replaced after asbestos was found in one sink. The others are being replaced as a safety precaution. A story on page A3 in yesterday's paper incorrectly suggested that 12 sinks in nine classrooms tested positive for asbestos.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at corrections@starbulletin.com.

Twelve classroom sinks at Haleiwa Elementary School will be removed today after a substance used to coat the underside of them was found to contain asbestos.

Custodians noticed a substance falling from under the sinks on June 16 and sent it for asbestos testing, which was completed Monday, Department of Education spokeswoman Sandy Goya said.

Summer school classes that were being held in two of the nine affected classrooms were moved the day after the positive results, she said.

The discovery underlines the challenge faced by the department in keeping on top of an asbestos problem in Hawaii's aging public schools.

Department officials announced this month that ceilings in four schools would be replaced after safety inspections of hundreds of plaster ceilings throughout the state found asbestos.

Asbestos was used in many building materials in decades past, and becomes a problem only when aging or poorly maintained structures, such as many of Hawaii's schools, begin to deteriorate. That can release asbestos into the air, where it can be inhaled, potentially causing lung cancer and other deadly conditions.

The department has no plans to initiate statewide inspections of school sinks in response to the Haleiwa finding, said Glenn Tatsuno, administrator of the department's Safety and Security Services Section. Rather, school sinks would be added to the list of possible asbestos-containing materials that school custodians check every six months. Twice-yearly inspections of suspect materials are required under federal law.

"What we have to do is be more proactive on checking out the sinks after this," Tatsuno said.

School principal Diane Matsukawa officially confirmed the asbestos discovery to staff on Thursday.

Since it was found under the sinks in an enclosed area, the likelihood of a health risk at the school is lower than if the asbestos were found in a ceiling, where it can drift down into the air, said Gilbert Chun, the department's Operations and Maintenance administrator.

King Intermediate School in Kaneohe was close for five days last year after asbestos was discovered in exterior walls. State health authorities declared the school safe after an extensive cleanup.

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