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Results of EPA Air Sampling at Allendale School Released

Release Date: 12/14/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: David Deegan, 617-918-1017

(Pittsfield, Mass.) - As part of ongoing efforts to ensure the protection of public health while continuing the clean up efforts in Pittsfield, EPA today released the results of air samples collected from the Allendale School playground on Dec. 6th and 7th.

The air samples, which were collected over a 24-hour period last week, show only minimal traces of PCBs in the air at the school, far below levels that would trigger EPA concerns about the health of children or the public at large. PCBs were not detected in two of the samples; a third sample revealed 0.0004 ug/m3.

“This newest data confirms that not only the soil, but also air in the schoolyard is not posing significant risks to children,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “EPA is going to continue collecting air samples from the school property over the next several weeks to ensure that we have the best available information on whether children or people who work at the school are at risk.”

Two air sampling locations were selected at the schoolyard. One sampling location had two air monitors, while the third monitor was placed at the second location, resulting in a total of three samples taken.

No detectable PCBs above the laboratory detection limit of 0.0003 ug/m3 were found in two of the samples. The third sample contained only traces of PCBs measured at 0.0004 ug/m3, which is barely above the detection level.

Since meeting with school teachers and parents in early October, EPA has directed GE to increase the frequency of air monitoring at the perimeter of the “On Plant Consolidation Areas” (OPCAs) near the school. EPA has collected air samples from the school grounds to determine if there were any significant emissions migrating towards the school. EPA has also assigned a full-time staff person to the project team to oversee the day-to-day OPCA activities.

In related work, in late November, 20 soil samples were collected within the top three inches from the surface of the ground at nineteen locations on the schoolyard. Data released last week showed that although very low levels of PCBs were detected in two of the twenty samples, the concentrations were more than twenty times lower then the maximum level of 2 ppm (part per million) which the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) has established as acceptable for soil at residential properties.

To build upon the positive results, EPA continues to work aggressively with local and state officials, GE, and the community to evaluate practices at the OPCAs that will ensure that the best protection measures are employed. EPA is also working in close coordination with the MADEP, which will be sampling the crawl space beneath the school later this month.

The OPCAs were agreed to as part of the Consent Decree entered into by the federal and state governments, the City of Pittsfield, GE and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority in 2000. The Consent Decree allows for three OPCAs at the facility. These include the pre-existing Hill 78 disposal area and the Building 71 location which together comprise a ten-acre area. GE has been placing materials in the Hill 78 OPCA since 1999, beginning with over 40,000 cubic yards of soil removed during the remediation of the Allendale School playground. GE has been placing material in the Building 71 approved lined landfill since 2000. A third 1.6 acre OPCA located at the intersection of Merrill Road and New York Avenue is allowed for under the Consent Decree, however, GE has not yet proposed to use this area.

As EPA continues to collect additional data to determine whether there are other health concerns at the Allendale School, the Agency will post new data at: http://www.epa.gov/ne/ge .