Professionals give update on mercury in floors

According to Remington and Vernick Engineers, results still pending for four township schools

Mercury in the floors was among the topics of discussion at the latest board of education meeting. In addition to Annina Hogan, the board’s representative from Remington and Vernick Engineers, the board welcomed certified industrial hygienist Mike Menz.

Menz provided insight to what other states are doing when it comes to mercury particles in the air.

“It’s kind of new territory,” Menz said. “The EPA does have thresholds, and there are four or five states that have been looking into this issue — there’s not a consensus standard universally. The EPA has a reference concentration of .3 micrograms per meter cubed. In that concentration, their mathematical modeling is based on continuous exposure, 24 hours a day for a lifetime. After 70 years having no adverse effect.”

Menz referenced some guidelines other states and agencies have used in the past, noting Minnesota set the bar at 1.8 micrograms per meter cubed, the New Jersey Department of Health gave a guidance level of .8 micrograms per meter cubed after an incident at Kinder College, and the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry has a range that goes up to 3 micrograms per meter cubed.

Menz believes Arizona’s guidelines are the best. The guideline says if the space has 1.0 micrograms per meter cubed, no further action is necessary; between 1 and 3, the functional space can be used but some adjustments, like increased ventilation, are suggested. If the test comes back over 3.0, the space should be vacated.

“I would recommend the Arizona approach,” Menz said. “New Jersey doesn’t have that yet but I think they are realistic, conservative values to protect the occupants and the public.”

Hogan said all of the schools have completed air testing. All but one of Bells Elementary School’s air tests came back as non-detect, one detectable was .16 micrograms per meter cubed. Hogan said they requested to increase outdoor air ventilation in an effort to lower the number.

The average readings from Bunker Hill Middle School came in at .59 micrograms per meter cubed. Hogan said they increased the ventilation rates in the gym and reduced the temperature from 71 degrees to 68. A test was rescheduled for Feb. 26.

Birches Elementary School averaged .6 micrograms per meter cubed. Like Bunker Hill Middle School, they increased ventilation and had a test rescheduled for Feb. 27.

Whitman Elementary School averaged .86 micrograms per meter cubed. Similar actions were taken and a test was rescheduled for Feb. 27.

Wedgwood, Hurffville and Thomas Jefferson Elementary Schools, along with the high school, had testing completed, but the results were not available by the time of publication.

One of the things on the horizon for the schools is a worst-case scenario air sample test. This test would show how high the rates would get if they didn’t have the ability to cool the gym. While all of the gyms have cooling systems, this information is good to have in case of a failure in the HVAC system or during the summer when the temperatures rise, officials said. The tests will be done in March during the weekends.

At the end of her presentation, Hogan gave her recommendation to the board.

“It is my recommendation, and I believe it is the anticipation of the administration to recommend to the board, regardless of the air sampling results, if they come back acceptable in the occupied mode it would be the long-term plan to get rid of these floors and not have to worry about continuous monitoring,” she said.

In other news:

  • Jillian To and Morgan Davis of Washington Township High School’s Students in Action group, accompanied by their co-advicor Lindsay Radziak and principal Jonathan Strout, gave a presentation to the board about their upcoming show, Open 2.0. To, a sophomore who attended the show last year said the show impacted her life.

“This idea struck a chord with many students last year, it’s the reason I’m here today,” she said. “I was not a proactive student last year. I’d be the last person to volunteer for community service and the first on the bus going home at 2:10. I never thought about my school being anything more than just an obstacle to the weekend. I believe this line of thinking applies to many of our students. I went to the first Open show nonchalantly, assuming it was a typical anti-bullying assembly. But, by the show’s end, my eyes and heart were opened to what our school could really mean to so many — a family. This family needs the support of everybody to help make it a place where all students can feel safe and welcome.”

Davis read a poem and gave a preview of what’s to come in this year’s Open show. The poem was about a girl who appears to have it all on the outside but struggles internally.

Radziak said the show was only open to eighth-period English and history classes last year. This year they want to hit a larger audience.

“We realized the messages of Open 2.0 extend beyond the community out to the larger audience of the township residents and even beyond. We know in our hearts everyone will benefit from Open 2.0.” Radziak said.

Community members are encouraged to attend the free event on May 2 at 7 p.m. at Washington Township High School.

  • The next board of education meeting will be on March 26 at 7 p.m. at the Eileen Abbott Central Administration Building.