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Officials: PCB Remediation 'Expensive' But Schools Are Safe

Southington school officials and environmental experts on Wednesday took time to answer concerns and assure residents that the schools are safe.

Southington school officials and environmental experts on Wednesday evening sent a clear message regarding the recent findings of PCBs in the town’s two middle schools: remediation could be an expensive venture, but both the Kennedy and DePaolo middle schools are safe for students and staff.

School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. and James Twitchell, and environmental expert with Hygenix, Inc., told parents and members of the community Wednesday night that after a recent study found PCBs and considerable asbestos at the two middle schools, an in-depth air quality test was conducted and found zero air pollution.

“The most important piece of PCBs is the air testing and after taking multiple samples, the results came back exactly as we had hoped, completely negative,” Erardi said.

“The safety of our students and staff has and will always be our top priority. If there was any question surrounding safety at our schools, we would be here tonight discussing a contingency plan rather than simply talking about what PCBs are.”

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The discussion on Wednesday was sparked by a report released from Hygenix, Inc., a Stamford-based environmental consultant firm, just 24 hours earlier that revealed a high level of both PCBs and asbestos at Kennedy Middle School and DePaolo Middle School.

“I came here with concerns, but I feel after asking questions that the administration is doing a great job of being out in front of this,” said Steve Burns, parent of several local students one of about a dozen residents to attend the discussion on Wednesday evening. “After hearing their explanation, I am a lot more comfortable.”

Erardi and members of the Board of Education have taken a proactive approach since receiving the results of testing conducted by Hygenix. Erardi sent an automated call to all 6,000 parents and guardians in the district Tuesday evening to explain the findings and offered his phone number to anyone with questions.

He said Wednesday that he did not receive a single call.

Twitchell said it will take a detailed and well-planned response during the summer of 2013 to remediate the school of PCBs, which lie dormant within the calking used in areas such as windows, along the wooden portions of the floors and in the walls of the two schools.

The remediation will not be done while school is in session and no one will be allowed in the buildings during the remediation process, officials assured resident.

For the time-being, however, the PCBs are of no threat to students or staff, Twitchell said.

“The calk is in accessible locations such as windowsills but it is covered and guarded from exposure. Simple cleaning practices and routine washing is all it takes to make sure this is not an issue,” he said.

Twitchell noted, however, that remediation will require a detailed plan that includes oversight from both the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, as well as the federal Environmental Protection Agency. He said this would likely be expensive, but didn’t indicate a direct cost.

Elected officials on Tuesday said this cost could reach to “millions of dollars.”

For a complete look at the findings, costs and more on what Polychlorinated Biphenyls are, be sure to read Wednesday morning’s story “.”

Brian Goralski, chairman of the Southington Board of Education, assured residents on Wednesday that the board will not withhold any information from the public and will release exact levels of PCBs as soon as they become available. Members of the Middle School Building Committee have hired Hygenix to conduct further studies and expect the results within the next several months, as well as a projection of costs to remediate the issues.

“This is just the beginning of the process and we will continue to be up front about it. As the findings are returned, we will make all information available,” Goralski said. “As always, safety remains our first priority and the primary goal.”

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Elaine Smith September 27, 2012 at 10:00 AM
Why wasn't this considered when the renovation budget was developed, the one the taxpayers were asked to approve via a referendum?
Ken September 27, 2012 at 10:18 AM
@ Elaine, for the same reason the oil spill was covered up - Public Official Razzle-dazzle. "Oh, did we forget to tell you before you bought the car, Mr. Jones, that the motor is extra?" We have people in town government who do hair-brained stuff and never have to take the consequences. Why is nothing being said about the oil spill? Why are THESE people not being taken to task? And of course, these new contaminants are an excellent way to take the focus off it. On those, why are we even considering correcting a problem (asbestos/PCB) if, left to their own devices, they are not adversely impacting the schools environment? Perhaps, a group of taxpayers could get an injunction to halt this renovation project. Then it could be revisited so that a balanced renovation project could be developed and a budget put to referendum that includes the full cost, not just slimming through buying a Cadillac whilst the motor missing, I suspect with a full-cost estimate, the voters would go for the Ford or Chevy version that includes the motor. Our kids and teachers need a safe working environment but the voters/taxpayers need honest and diligent people running things.
Scott Barner September 27, 2012 at 01:33 PM
@ Ken, I love how whenever there is a surprise people automatically assume it's the town's elected officials who are trying to get one over on the taxpayer. I have been involved in a few school reno/addition projects over the years, and if you think there wasn't a line item in the estimated cost for the removal of hazardous materials, you arent informed. The this is first time that I've heard of PCB's in construction materials. Everyone knows about asbestos. As far as leaving them alone, that isn't an option, that would probably be ok if we weren't doing a reno/addition project, they would be safe until they get disturbed, which is going to happen. The oil spill...it happened 32 years ago...really, deflect the focus, it's just something we have to deal with!
Arthur Cyr September 27, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Scott - you are correct; the oil spill was indeed 32 years ago, in the era of John Pyne in schools and John Weichel and Tony Tranquillo in Town Hall. And unlike the present administrations, apparently NO reports were done or filed back then. And that was also in an era that DEP and EPA didn't requires the in-depth reports they do in 2012. The DePaolo site has further soil testing scheduled in the next month. It is not something that gets done in a matter of days to satisfy inpatient residents that demand all answers now.
Ed Costello September 27, 2012 at 11:32 PM
"On those, why are we even considering correcting a problem (asbestos/PCB) if, left to their own devices, they are not adversely impacting the schools environment?" Ken - You wouldn't be suggesting we do what might have been done 32 years ago with the oil spill are you? You seem to be condemning town officials (past and present?) and then suggest they continue the behavior that you condemn them for? Southington Patch really needs a smarter class of mud slingers.

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