Soil Vapor Testing Report - South Hill Elementary School",
dated August 21, 2007, details how "low concentrations of certain
VOCs were detected in the soil vapor samples collected on the school
property. Trichloroethene (TCE) was detected at concentrations ranging
from 0.492 to 8.36 ug/m^3." The report presents results from
tests along and around the "NCR sewer", which runs down
S. Aurora Street from the former NCR site further up South Hill,
to support the theory that the toxins found on the school grounds
originated at NCR, not at Morse or Emerson. We are told that
follow-up testing (involving 18 canisters of air taken from the
school's sub-slab and from crawl spaces, but NOT from classroom
or office space) has been performed, but further details or results
have not been released.
and Community Residents React to Toxins Found In and Under Elementary
the actual test results have not yet been widely distributed, the
letter sent by the NYS Department of Health (NYSDOH) to the
Ithaca City School District (ICSD) states that "low levels
of VOCs were detected in all samples collected." ICSD
Superintendent Dr. Judith Pastel released this memo
to "Concerned Members of the South Hill Elementary School Community",
stating that though they hadn't seen all the results yet, "The
District ... does not believe any health hazard from TCE contamination
exists at the school or on the property", but indicating that
the District would "continue to pursue the matter".
community residents, including many local officials, signed a letter
to NYSDOH Commissioner Richard F. Daines, MD, requesting that all
test results be released publicly, that NYSDOH or Emerson "conduct
comprehensive indoor ambient air quality testing immediately after
the school's heating system is operating on a full-time basis",
that the DOH investigate installing appropriate mitigation systems,
and that the agency work with NYSDEC to determine the sources of
the contamination and work on remediation: "Removal of contaminant
sources is critical to protecting the school and nearby residents
from continuing pollution hazards." Further comments
are included in this report
by Krisy Gashler of The Ithaca Journal, as well as
in this editorial,
calling for air tests in the classrooms.
Waffles on Further Air Testing at Elementary School
reported by Krisy Gashler in the October 13, 2007 Ithaca
Journal, Ithaca City School District officials are backtracking
from promises they made to request testing of indoor air at South
Hill Elementary School. Their initial statements (September 11 and
12) were that testing would be performed once the heat is turned
on and the building's windows are closed.
statements suggest they want to review the results and see a "final
report" from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
(NYSDEC). The results released by the NYS Department of Health (NYSDOH)
on September 5, showed contaminants in ALL the samples taken, with
TCE, PERC, Toluene and Chloroform among the many toxins found in
the sub-slab tests, and Freon, Toluene, and Chloroform among the
many toxins found in the crawlspace tests. A summary of the results
a (hard-to-read) map of the school lower-level floor plan is here.
for the September 5 NYSDOH report says "As is often the case,
low levels of VOCs were detected in all the samples collected. Chemicals
are part of our everyday life. They are present in the products
we store and use indoors and in the outdoor air that enters buildings.
As such some chemicals are expected to be found in air samples.
The low levels of VOCs detected in the samples collected from beneath
the school do not indicate levels of contamination requiring further
is the same NYSDOH that (in 1991) told
the owner of a home on South Cayuga Street that the TCE found in
the home's basement (a reading of 46 ug/M^3) "may present
a slightly increased exposure to trichloroethene compared to the
control houses" but "Health effects are not expected at
the levels in your house." The "acceptable" levels
of TCE and other toxins are much higher under NYS standards than
in many other states.
of elementary school children have every right to be concerned about
their safety, and the safety of the teachers and staff who care
for them. We all have the right to expect truthful answers from
school district and state officials about the problems we face and
steps that are being taken to address our concerns. ICSD is waffling.
Neither the NYSDEC nor the NYSDOH have offered significant help
in our understanding the problems we face - the last Public Meeting
on this issue was held in January 2006.
State Agencies Hold Meeting to Discuss Testing at Elementary School
public meeting was held at South Hill Elementary School on December
5 for parents, staff and concerned neighbors to hear from ICSD,
State Education Department, NYSDEC and NYSDEC officials about the
state's determination that the tests performed thus far in and around
the school (sub-slab, crawlspace, and soil vapor tests on the grounds)
had convinced them that indoor air testing was not needed. Paul
Mintz, representing ICSD suggested that paying for the indoor air
tests would require cutting other programs, while DEC and DOH representatives
said their judgment was that indoor air tests simply weren't needed.
Parents and staff were NOT convinced - how so much testing could
have been performed WITHOUT testing the areas where the students
and staff actually spend their time is indeed mysterious. It would
appear that ICSD has an attitude of "what we don't know won't
hurt us...". Krisy Gashler's summary of the meeting is here.