WETHERSFIELD - The Wethersfield Town Council unanimously approved an unspecified allotment--no more than $40,000--to go toward PCB abatement for the high school renovation project at its meeting Monday night.
The Wethersfield High School Building Committee is in the process of complying with EPA standards that require the remediation and/or removal of PCBs that were discovered at the site of a project that includes the addition of a gymnasium, a library/media center, and music room, as well as renovations to the existing building.
Whether the PCBs need to be removed and disposed of completely, or just encapsulated depends on the level that it is present, according to Robert May Jr., Vice President of Enviro Science LLC. Areas where there are 50 parts per million (ppm) or more require removal, he said.
Previous test results reported a presence of less than 50 ppm in window and door frame caulking, although vinyl floor tiling and mastic materials were found to have levels at or exceeding the EPA threshold, May said.
Most of the PCBs are in caulking materials of expansion joints and carpet adhesive, May said.
PCBs are commonly found in caulking materials such as window sashes, sills, and the tops, according to a presentation by Mays. They can move into adjacent materials and even migrate to soil and interior dust.
Phase 1 of the abatement process, which involves identifying materials where PCBs reside, is wrapping up, with Phase 2--checking adjacent surfaces--about to begin, May said.
The bulk of the remediation plan will involve materials that can become exposed during construction, according to Wethersfield Town Manager Jeff Bridges.
“We’re at the stage where we need to test not the tile, but the brick and concrete, and determine the extent to which they need to be removed,” said Bridges.
Air quality tests did not indicate that the PCB presence poses an inherent threat in the building’s current state, May said.
“That testing was completed and there were no air issues found,” he said.
The Council gave the renovation team the go-ahead to proceed in a phased process in order to be able to begin construction this summer as intended. A proposal for the site’s additions was presented to the state March 19. The team was asked to make revisions to the plans and is in the process of having them approved, said Wethersfield Superintendent of Schools Michael Emmett at a March 26 Boar of Education meeting.
The PCB abatement in the existing building-the second phase-is being conducted with the goal of starting renovations there by next summer.
The EPA only recently began regulating sites with PCB presence--September 2009 was when the agency first began gathering facts about the substances in an effort to establish guidelines for dealing with them, according to Mays.
“It’s not something we’ve been dealing with every year,” Mays said. “September 2009 was when the process started with PCBs.”
An EPA ban of PCBs at construction sites was enacted in 1979, but 46 percent, or 55,000, of schools in the country were built before this came into effect, Mays said.
“This is not something unique to Wethersfield,” Mays said. “It’s very prevalent in the United States.”