Documents from 2011 have shed new light on information regarding the existence of PCBs at Southington’s two middle schools, but early studies provided to district administration indicated that any issues were minimal and would not be expensive to clean up.
A report from EnviroMed Services, Inc., a Stratford-based environmental consulting firm hired by Fletcher Thompson as part of the middle school feasibility study, indicated that while there were polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, within the calking in windowsills, walls and floors, the PCB was not exposed and levels were of no threat to students and staff.
EnviroMed Services Project Manager John Luby specifically wrote in a letter on May 26, 2011, that samples at DePaolo Middle School found no PCB levels above 5 mg/kg and estimated that remediation costs would be minimal.
“Our recommendation for DePaolo Middle School is for more extensive sampling of the various caulks on the exterior of the building during the design process prior to the first PCT meeting to narrow the scope of PCB abatement. Indications are that PCBs will have less than a $50,000 impact to the project budget for this school,” Luby wrote.
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“A feasibility study done by Fletcher Thompson did not initially include an environmental report so it was requested that a sample study be conducted,” Southington School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. said Thursday.
Fred Cox, operations administrator for Southington schools, said Thursday that there was a similar report from Kennedy Middle School indicating minimal remediation costs, although the costs weren’t clearly defined as they were at DePaolo.
The 2011 reports are a far cry from the “millions of dollars” that elected officials are now saying remediation could cost.
Recent PCB and asbestos levels were found to be extremely high in areas at both DePaolo and especially Kennedy during a study completed by Hygenix, Inc., an environmental consulting firm working alongside Newfield Construction as part of the town’s middle school renovation project.
Earlier this week, certified environmental hygienist Robert C. Brown told members of the middle school committee that levels of PCB, particularly at Kennedy, were well above 50 mg/kg.
Jim Twitchell, environmental expert with Hygenix, Inc., said Wednesday that remediation of this would likely be “expensive” and would have to done in partnership with both the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Twitchell said the schools are currently safe, however, and samples found zero air pollution or concern.
“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.
Erardi told the Board of Education that the plan is to address these issues during the summer and assured that, as he told parents and town residents during a discussion session Wednesday night, no remediation of any PCBs or asbestos would take place at any period when students may be in the schools.
Part of the reason for the discrepancy between the 2011 results and recent findings may have to do with the differences in the level of study being conducted, Erardi said.
“The sampling for the 2011 report included less than a half dozen. We are projecting to take over 200 samples with the project that we are about to get underway with,” Erardi said Thursday night.
Members of the Middle School Building Committee on Thursday said while they could be looking at extensive remediation costs for the projects – they refused to comment on whether reports of “several million” were accurate – they would have a better idea of costs around Oct. 23.
Board of Education Chairman Brian Goralski said that as information becomes available, Erardi and the board would continue to provide updates and make all findings available to the public. He said the open communication will remain and important part of the process.
Goralski said the board would also continue to move forward with the best interest of the students and staff in mind.
“As always, safety remains our number one priority and that will never change,” he said.
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