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PCB-contaminated school prompts Vermont to test campuses throughout the state

Aug. 3, 2021
Burlington High School campus had to be abandoned because of extensive chemical contamination.

The shutdown of a Vermont high school campus because of PCB contamination has prompted state officials to call for testing of most of the state's school facilities.

WCAX-TV reports that Vermont schools will be sampled for PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, as early as September. 

The action comes after Burlington High School in Burlington, Vt., had to be closed when PCB contamination was discovered there. Officials subsequently determined that the contamination was so extensive that the school had to be torn down.

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation oversees the safety of all building materials in the state, including those used in schools. Officials say those school buildings that were built or renovated before 1980 will require review -- about 300 schools statewide.

PCBs are usually found in building products including caulking, paint, fluorescent light ballasts, window glazing, ceiling tiles, spray-on fireproofing, floor finish, and mastics.

State environmental officials will ask schools to remove fluorescent light ballasts, which are one of the most common sources of PCBs. Once that has been completed, officials say consultants will sample the air in at least 30% of the rooms in the school. That data will be sent to the Department of Health for review.

The state has allocated $4.5 million to carry out testing. It is expected to cost upwards of $20,000 per school.

All of the sampling must be completed by August 2024.

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