School trustee candidates running for election under the Proudly Surrey banner are calling on the district to stop its policy of “asbestos encapsulation,” or leaving lethal asbestos in schools after renovations, expansions and seismic upgradings.
Fine dust from asbestos, when disturbed, can get lodged deep in the lungs and has been linked to lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.
Proudly Surrey candidate Rina Diaz charged that “as a cost-saving measure, we are leaving this substance in the walls and ceilings of our schools. That is insanity.”
“We need to remove all asbestos from our schools, now, period,” Diaz insists. “I conducted my own investigation and discovered that while the policy requires that schools be checked for asbestos entering the air supply every six months, many schools have not been tested or inspected in as many as three years.”
Proudly Surrey school trustee candidate Rina Diaz. (File photo)
Her running mate, Dean McGee, said an elected Proudly Surrey school board would “initiate a complete investigation of all records and contracts pertaining to the monitoring of hazardous materials in Surrey schools and facilities.”
Diaz said eliminating asbestos from all the schools will “cost money.” She noted that section 112 of the BC School Act permits school boards “to hold a referendum to raise additional funds that exceed that provided” by the provincial government.
“A successful referendum, combined with the revenue from a local levy on cannabis sales, will fund the costs associated with the complete removal of asbestos from all school board facilities over the next four years,” Diaz said.
Surrey School District spokesman Doug Strachan said it “would be unfortunate if there’s fear-mongering as part of political gain.”
“But we have an extensive and detailed, and have had for years, asbestos management program and in fact just this year alone we have a 450-page report detailing every location within every school that has asbestos, even potential locations for asbestos in those schools, so that they’re very tightly controlled and regulated and monitored.”
Surrey School District spokesman Doug Strachan. (File photo)
Strachan said district employees are required at sites containing asbestos in any form, be it vermiculite in insulation or tape wrapping pipes, to document it “and employees on site are required to have training in recognizing and managing any spills.
“We have annual inspections of those schools and more often at some of the schools where there’s insulation, I mean I can go on and on. There’s regular training, on a cyclical basis, for all facilities people and custodians on asbestos abatement.”
Strachan said the school board has been “not just diligent, but even aggressive in prioritizing the policies and funding for school safety measures and asbestos management is one of them. I was required to take online asbestos management processes, education as a district employee.”
Strachan said it’s “ironic” the Proudly Surrey candidates are targeting encapsulation, “because that is in fact what the experts say is the safest thing.”