(531) 299-0180 
(531) 299-0215 

Service Center 
4041 North 72nd Street 
Omaha, NE 68134-4470


Department of Environmental/Safety

The Environmental/Safety Department is responsible for the development and implementation of all programs governed by environmental regulations or directives, and controlling the presence of substances in district facilities that can or potentially can cause a negative effect on human health and issues related to staff safety and fire safety. Environmental/Safety is now part of the Department of District Operational Services and is located at the Service Center alongside Buildings and Grounds.



The asbestos industry is one of the most highly regulated environmental programs.  Federal, State and local regulatory agencies all have regulations pertaining to asbestos activities including worker protection, work practices, disposal procedures, and public notification. Under Federal jurisdiction, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) covers asbestos in schools through the   Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) and the Worker Protection Plan.  The National Emission Standard and Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) regulations apply to both public (including schools) and private industry in regard to project notification periods, transportation, labeling and disposal of asbestos containing waste, and emission controls.   Worker safety considerations of private industry contractors are covered by (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) OSHA.  

In Nebraska the Department of Health and Human Services, Asbestos Control Program, also mandates requirements and licensing for asbestos abatement.  There may be additional local requirements such as our Omaha Air Quality. 

The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) is a federally mandated program that requires public school systems to conduct building inspections for the presence of asbestos, assess the condition of that material, predict potential exposure to occupants and maintain a written plan outlining either the removal or maintenance of the material.  In order to comply with these requirements Omaha Public Schools maintains a written management plan for every building in the district.

Every three years buildings that contain asbestos must be re-inspected by a certified inspector.  Based on those observations the management plan is revised by a management planner.  Any materials that have degraded in stability during the previous three years will be reassessed in terms of potential exposure to the occupants and the response will be upgraded. 

All asbestos containing materials are checked for damage or deterioration every six months by Environmental staff.  Many small repairs or removal projects are implemented based on the results of these six month periodic surveillance activities.

AHERA also requires the school district to publish public notification annually describing our asbestos control program and indicating where the management plan for each building can be reviewed.  Notification of the presence and location of asbestos containing materials is required for outside contractors working in the building.

For public or government entities, AHERA and the subsequent EPA Worker Protection Plan requires all employees who could potentially be exposed to asbestos in the routine performance of their job must receive a minimum 2-hour Asbestos Awareness Training.  This training is generally limited to building engineers and custodial staff.  Most maintenance staff is included in this category. (Painters and brick layers generally don’t work in areas where asbestos is found.  Plumbers, electricians, ventilation equipment workers and carpenters are at greatest risk.)  Any employee responsible for cleaning small asbestos “spills” or is required to remove small amounts of asbestos in response to an emergency, such as a broken water line insulated with asbestos, must receive additional training. 

One of the last major components of AHERA is the requirement that all abatement personnel must be trained by an EPA approved training provider, successfully pass a written exam.  OPS Environmental employees receive the same training as private contractors, attend annual refresher training and maintain certification as required by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Asbestos Control Division.


Since the mid 1990’s OPS Environmental has established programs to help identify lead sources that might become potential contributors to an elevated blood lead level in children.  There are numerous potential sources of lead including food, water, beverages, art supplies, some folk remedies, lead-based paint, air pollution and soil. 


Currently, most lead guidelines are based on work practices and recommendations published by The Housing and Urban Development.  In Nebraska, child-occupied facilities are required to use trained persons and test the area after a lead abatement project has been completed.   Local health departments, including Douglas County conducted tests of all pre-school and child care providers for the presence of lead. 


Schools housing children under the age of six take priority when testing for the presence of lead based paint or in any project involving lead.  Children under the age of six are still developing their central nervous system (CNS).  Damage to the CNS system can in turn damage mental development as well as other developing functions such as the renal and endocrine systems.  


The use of lead-based paints in residential and most interior paint was banned in 1978.  Two years “bump” was added to account for contractors who may have held paint in storage.  All schools constructed prior to 1980 have been tested for the presence of lead-based paint. 


The presence of lead-based paint does not dictate removal.  As long as the paint is in good condition, not peeling or chalking, it may remain in place.  Most of the lead-based paint identified in OPS buildings was found on component pieces such as doors, windows, and door jambs.  Removing lead-based paint from component pieces in place increases the potential for children to come in contact with the generated dust.  For this reason, the component pieces will be managed in place and replaced with new component pieces through remodeling or as funds become available.


Lead-in-soil analysis has been performed on all playgrounds that were in place prior to 1980.  The policy at OPS is to remove soil with a total lead concentration of 400 parts per million (ppm).  EPA established 400 ppm as a guideline (not regulation) for bare dirt residential playgrounds for children under six.  That level of exposure is considered to be a very low contributor to the overall lead uptake of a child in conditions with the greatest potential for exposure—no grass cover--dirt easily becomes airborne, and children are at home more hours per week than at other locations.  Most people forget the hours overnight and weekends—the dirt can be carried inside the home and is still available for uptake by the child.  


When EPA abates soil, like the Superfund project in Omaha, the agency uses a biological uptake calculation, taking into account the other potential sources of lead in a child’s life, to determine how much lead in soil content is still considered safe.  In a recent EPA soil removal project in Missouri, that was 800 ppm.   Lead-based paint, the single greatest potential contributor to a child’s elevated blood lead level is not part of the equation.


Lead is very stable in the ground.  It does not readily interact with rain water to be carried farther down into the soil.   Samples of soil for lead analysis are generally collected within the first two-three inches.  OPS collects samples from all drip lines areas around the building, all play areas including sports fields, and from non-play ground yard areas.  Samples collected near major motorways will generally be slightly higher in lead content than other yard—the influence of leaded gasoline.   


The only soil found to be over 400 ppm at OPS facilities has been in the drip line area, usually the result of window paint scraped before painting.  When found the soil is removed and replaced even though EPA guidelines would allow it to remain in place with grass and shrub cover.  Other lead-in-soil guidelines are 2,000 ppm for other residential yard areas (with grass cover), up to 5,000 ppm before permanent abatement is suggested. 


It is also our standard policy at OPS, to require the analysis of any soil brought onto OPS property for lead content.  This includes borrow soil; fill soil, top soil, and soil used for surcharge.  Either an OPS Environmental staff member or an independent third party is contracted to collect the samples at the borrow soil site.  


EPA mandated the testing of water coolers for lead-in-water 1989.  Many water coolers had lead lined reservoirs used to keep the water chilled.  Water may lay in the reservoirs overnight or over the weekend had the highest concentrations of lead.  Lead solder on water lines is another potential source of lead.  The uptake of lead by the water is directly affected by the pH—the lower pH, more acidic the water, the more lead can be dissolved and carried in the stream.  The Clean Water Act regulates how much lead is acceptable in water delivered by your provider.  However, that does not take into account what happens to the water in individual building service lines.  After the testing in 1989, two water coolers were removed from service. 


OPS Environmental staff also attends training for the recognition of potential lead issues as required by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. 

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

The Omaha Public School (OPS) Indoor Air Quality Program takes a comprehensive approach achieving and maintaining good indoor air quality.  All members of the Indoor Air Quality response team understand the influence good indoor air quality plays in the overall well being and performance of staff and students.  OPS seeks to control asthma triggers as well as toxic and potentially harmful materials.  Toxic and potentially harmful materials include all traditional environmental concerns such as asbestos, radon, lead, and chemical exposure.


Several steps are taken in the buildings to ensure good indoor air quality.  Proper and routine cleaning is probably the most significant step that can be taken to control airborne concentrations of particulate that can cause respiratory irritation.  Buildings are furnished with entry mats to cut down on the amount of dirt and debris carried in from outdoors.  All secondary and a large number of elementary school buildings are finished with hard surface flooring in high traffic areas such as hallways and cafeterias, for ease of cleaning.  Carpet is generally restricted for use in traditional instructional classrooms, administrative areas and media centers. 

Cleaning products used in the buildings are one potential source of many different chemical compounds including aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons.  Cleaning products used in the district are reviewed for toxic properties prior to purchase. 

Another important step in achieving good indoor air quality is the control of water.  Interior mold growth, insect and mammal pest populations can be significantly influenced by controlling available water.  Priority is given by Maintenance personnel when responding to work requests involving water from an uncontrolled source.   Water control also influences some decisions made during original construction and remodeling projects.   Hard surface flooring, known as wet areas, are installed around drinking fountains and sinks whenever possible.   


Asthma TriggersDownload
Chemical ExposureDownload
Classroom Use of Air FreshenersDownload
Department ResponsibilitiesDownload
Hazardous MaterialsDownload
Indoor Air Quality SOPDownload
OPS Asbestos Management PlanDownload
OPS Indoor Air Quality PlanDownload
OPS Indoor Air Quality ProgramDownload
OPS Radon ProgramDownload
OPS Science Safety ManualDownload
Portable ClassroomsDownload
Quality ConcernsDownload
Quality ParametersDownload

“Tools for Schools” is a self help indoor air quality program developed by the Environmental Protection Agency in the mid 1990’s.  The “Tools for Schools” program incorporates data from checklists and baseline information such as temperature, relative humidity, carbon dioxide concentrations and carbon monoxide concentrations to quantify the indoor air quality (IAQ).  Recently, “Tools for Schools” has expanded to include asthma trigger awareness training in addition to the IAQ program.  

Asthma awareness training is designed to increase recognition to the most common asthma triggers and steps to eliminate these allergens as much as possible from the asthmatic’s environment. 


OPS has worked cooperatively with the American Lung Association of Nebraska and the Douglas County Health Department for several years to provide a healthy indoor environment for all students and staff.  This website is designed to further the IAQ and asthma educational efforts formalized by these joint ventures by offering the same video training that can be viewed at your convenience.  Accompanying checklists can also be accessed through this website and can be completed at your leisure.  

Many indoor air quality problems can be prevented or solved by in-house staff using the basic techniques provided in these videos. It is important that these videos be used in conjunction with guidance contained in the Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit.

The Omaha Public School (OPS) Indoor Air Quality Program takes a two pronged approach achieving and maintaining good indoor air quality.  The first approach deals with the control of any airborne substance, especially asthma triggers that can affect the comfort and safety of students and staff.  Along with controlling asthma triggers, OPS seeks to control toxic and potentially hazardous materials.  Potentially hazardous materials include all chemical compounds that may be harmful though not necessarily meeting the regulatory definition of a hazardous material.  Toxic and potentially hazardous materials include all traditional environmental concerns such as asbestos, radon, lead, and chemical exposure. 

Several steps are taken in the buildings to ensure good indoor air quality.  Proper and routine cleaning is probably the most significant step that can be taken.  Buildings are furnished with entry mats to cut down on the amount of dirt and debris carried in from outdoors.  All secondary and a large number of elementary school buildings are finished with hard surface flooring in high traffic areas for ease of cleaning.  Carpet is generally restricted for use in traditional instructional classrooms, administrative areas and media centers.   Floors around drinking fountains and sinks are most frequently finished with hard surfaces also.   Ease of cleaning building spaces and controlling water are two of the most important factors influencing air quality and asthma triggers.

Controlling the incidence of asthma attacks can be greatly improved by eliminating as much as possible, known asthma triggers.  Not all asthma triggers are easy to control, but several can be.  Those triggers that are closely related to allergy-triggered asthma are easier to control than cold-weather or activity related asthma.  Second hand smoke, pollen and mold spores, dust mites, cockroaches, and animal dander are major asthma triggers that can be controlled by taking a few steps.

Animal DanderDownload
Asthma Anaphylaxis Action PlanDownload
Dust Mites CockroachesDownload
Pollen and MoldDownload
Second Hand SmokeDownload
MSRA and Athletic ProgramsDownload
MSRA InfoDownload
Norovirus InfoDownload
School Nurse Guidance MSRADownload
Skin Infection Checklist for Athletic DepartmentDownload
Skin Infection InformationDownload
Skin Infection Q&ADownload

Science and Chemical Safety Link - Click here


OPS is a small quantity generator as defined by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  As much as possible, materials are recycled instead of being sent for disposal. Materials that cannot be recycled are properly packed for transportation to disposal sites by Environmental staff.  All Environmental staff have received the 40-hour Hazard Response (HazWopper) Training allowing them to safely respond to chemical spills.   Management of biohazard containers, fluorescent tube disposal, and solvent recycling programs is through Environmental.

To help prevent potentially hazardous situations, Environmental staff works with science teachers in the area of laboratory safety and proper chemical storage.  Additional information pertaining to chemical storage and disposal can be found on the OPS Service Center home page under Environmental.


Mercury spill clean-up techniques are taught to new building engineers and custodial staff by Environmental staff.  OPS owns a specialized mercury vacuum and an instant read air analyzer for the presence of mercury and to verify properly clean-up after a spill. 

Chemical Inventory & HazardsChemicalDownload
Chemical Spill Report FromChemicalDownload
Chemical Transfer ProcedureChemicalDownload
Hazardous Materials Identification SystemChemicalDownload
Scientific Lab Chemical Inventory SpreadsheetChemicalDownload
Spill Response in BuildingsChemicalDownload
Disposal of Non-Hazardous Solid Laboratory Waste Lab WasteDownload
Lab Waste Incompatible ChemicalsLab WasteDownload
Lab Waste Labeling & SegregationLab WasteDownload
Lab Waste No Drain DisposalLab WasteDownload
Lab Waste Peroxide Forming ChemicalsLab WasteDownload
Lab Waste Segregate Waste BottlesLab WasteDownload
Lab Waste Stream ChartLab WasteDownload
Sewer Disposal Guide - MUDManualsDownload
Mercury Spill Clean-Up ProcedureMercuryDownload
Lab SafetyScience & ChemicalDownload
OPS Science Safety SheetScience & ChemicalDownload
Peroxide FormersScience & ChemicalDownload
What's RecyclableDownload
Emergency PreparednessDownload
Fire PreparednessDownload