COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)
-- An environmental investigation at the River Valley high and
middle school campus near Marion revealed contamination and
sparked public demands that students be moved. But River
Valley is only one of a dozen Ohio schools built on or near
former military sites that environmental officials evaluated
The River Valley case has garnered the most
attention recently, with many graduates and residents blaming
the campus' contaminated soil for the unusually high rate of
leukemia cases among former students.
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials found a
chemical waste pit on River Valley's land -- the site of the
World War II military depot -- and have blocked off part of
the campus until new schools can be built at another location.
Although River Valley has the worst contamination,
according to state EPA officials, findings at six school sites
prompted concerns about chemical or soil contamination and
five still have active case files:
--Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland
--Fort Hayes Career Center, Columbus
--Nike Town and Country School, Cleveland
--Pioneer Career and Technical Center, Shelby
--Trumbull Area Multi-purpose Environmental Education Lab,
Don Plotts is superintendent of the Pioneer Technical and
Career Center, where investigators last year found a buried
landfill at the edge of the school's property.
``We put up a snow fence right away with 'Keep Out'
signs,'' Plotts said.
Investigators have said they are confident the material
buried near the school is harmless.
Why were the schools built on military sites in the first
place? The Pioneer school board, like the other schools,
seized the opportunity to buy land from the military for $1
during selloffs in the 1960s.
``At the time, the environmental rules and regulations
weren't in place,'' said Kevin Jasper, a project manager for
the Army Corps of Engineers. ``We didn't know at the time, for
example, that TCE (trichloroethylene) was a carcinogen.''
TCE is one of the chemicals found at River Valley. Common
practice at the time was for the chemical to be burned or
simply poured on the ground.
There is still no national requirement that schools built
on old military sites undergo environmental tests.
``There is no such things as cleanup standards for areas
where children frequent,'' said Lois Gibbs, head of the Center
for Health, Environment and Justice is Falls Church, Va. ``We
know so little about our kids and their vulnerability.''
Gibbs was the one who led the campaign in the late 1970s to
convince New York officials that chemical and other waste
buried under the Love Canal community, where she lived, was
making residents sick.
In March, Gibbs says she's starting a new campaign to get
lawmakers to create environmental standards for schools,
day-care centers and other places used by children.