Flint, MI— Flint Schools are facing $15,000 in fines for an asbestos violation in the former Northwestern High School found during a MIOSHA inspection in May 2020.  

The district was first penalized $25,000 but has since negotiated the lower settlement amount. Board members will vote to approve the final settlement terms at the Jan. 20 board meeting. 

The asbestos was found in the wrappings around the boiler room’s pipes, Flint Schools’ attorney Kendall Williams said. 

“When they opened the boiler room, they found that some of the wrapping around the pipes had become degraded… As soon as they informed us about it, we took care of it,” Williams said. 

Northwestern is closed to students. The board voted to shut it down in July 2020 after learning it needed $4 million in repairs to be compliant with state regulations.

The situation was remediated within days of the citation, officials said. An environmental company sanitized and cleaned the room taking proper precautions, like wearing hazmat suits, during the process. 

Williams said they were able to reduce the penalty because Flint Schools acted immediately.

Asbestos fibers are dangerous when inhaled as they can become embedded in organ linings or tissues. Too much exposure can cause diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. 

It currently houses the district’s central kitchen, a near $1 million investment. Due to financial constraints, the board was faced with a decision to properly board up Northwestern or install much-needed central air units in eight schools. 

Board members unanimously agreed that air conditioning was more important for Flint students given the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation for increased ventilation to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

It is not known when the district will take Northwestern out of service. The district incurs $200,000 a year for the building’s utility expenses. 

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...