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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.

Officials: PCB Remediation 'Expensive' But 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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