School board has questions about safety of Osborn Hill after PCB cleanup
Two days before Osborn Hill School reopens for the start of the new academic year, Board of Education members quizzed administrators Tuesday night on a range of health and safety issues at the elementary school, where a cleanup was triggered this spring after discovery of unsafe PCB levels.
During an update by Superintendent of Schools David Title on toxin's contamination at Osborn Hill, school board member Perry Liu asked what the ongoing remediation and testing plan is.
Airborne PCBs, a known carcinogen, were discovered in several sections of the Stillson Road school, as well as in window caulking and fireproofing materials.
Title said consultant firm AMC Environmental has filed periodic testing and long-term plans with the federal Environmental Protection Agency for approval.
"There will be periodic testing and, if necessary, further work on the school throughout the year," Title said.
Board member Sue Brand asked if other materials besides the fire retardant sprayed on the roof of the school's gym were found to be a source of PCBs.
Tom Cullen, director of operations, said the PCB contamination was found in the gym, which was built as part of a 1968 addition. PCB levels throughout the rest of the school declined once the gym's HVAC system was shut down, he said.
The only other school in the town's school district found to have a gym with fireproofing spray is Dwight Elementary School, he said.
"I think we can narrow it down to one or two schools that we'll have to look at," he said. "It's not a worry that all 17 schools will be a problem."
Chairwoman Pamela Iacono asked if an outside consultant would be hired to help with possible PCB issues in other schools in town.
Cullen said a consultant would be hired as part of drafting a long-term plan for approval by the EPA.
Board member Tim Kery said an expert should be hired to give town officials a better understanding of PCBs.
Prior to board members' comments, Title said the state Department of Public Health recently approved use of most of the Osborn Hill building beginning Thursday for the start of the new academic year. However, a temporary gym must be acquired to replace the school's gymnasium, which has been closed because of the continued unacceptably high PCB levels. Use of a portable gym may cost from $75,000 to $90,000 for the entire school year, Title said.
School officials recently said that two kindergarten classes will have to be temporarily relocated pending test results, and the library media center and the main hallway's girls and boys bathrooms may be closed off to students if clearance is not given by the start of school.
Updates on the status of the school are regularly being provided to Osborn Hill parents, Title said.
Title said addressing the school's PCB issue, initially found in caulking around some of the school's windows, has cost about $108,000 with about another $100,000 in purchase orders, all of which may or may not be used.
"This is a moving target," he said.
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