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  • River Valley investigation District requests more air, soil tests

    Friday, April 28, 2000

    BY Tom Sheehan
    Dispatch Staff Reporter

    MARION, Ohio -- More air monitoring in and around River Valley High School and Middle School is planned later this spring.

    In addition, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is investigating toxic contamination on the 72-acre school site, plans to conduct more soil sampling. The two schools were built on part of a former military depot where equipment was stored and repaired. Chemical waste was dumped on the site.

    "We asked for the air monitoring,'' River Valley School Superintendent Tom Shade said last night at a meeting to discuss results of site testing released by the Corps of Engineers in February.

    "We want to continue to indicate to the parents and to the community that we are being responsible. We need to make sure that we continue to monitor.''

    The Corps of Engineers stopped taking air samples inside and outside the two schools last fall after tests showed there were no problems with air quality.

    The school district has been working with state and federal agencies to assess potential health risks on the campus. Concerns were raised nearly three years ago by community members who questioned a high rate of leukemia among graduates of the high school.

    Jeff Steers of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said last night that the EPA will conduct air sampling inside the schools. The Corps of Engineers will test outside the schools.

    Soil sampling will be done around the middle school to check for lead and other possible contamination, said Kevin Jasper of the Corps of Engineers said.

    Previous testing uncovered no problems, but more testing will be done to reassure parents.

    "We don't have a safety problem'' at the schools, he said.

    Steers and Shade both said they are unaware of any health risks at the schools. Precautions were taken as a result of the investigation, they said, including putting a fence around six acres of ball fields, which are considered the most contaminated area.

    A Corps of Engineers study released in February showed that nearly 10 acres of school property, including the ball fields, are contaminated. The study concluded that health risks are minimal.

    Toxic chemicals include polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a cancer-causing chemical formerly used in industrial lubricants; and trichloroethylene, or TCE, a solvent used to clean metal parts.

    Jasper said another study that proposes what to do about the contamination has been delayed indefinitely. It was to have been released at the end of April.

    The Corps of Engineers is talking with the school district and the Ohio EPA about what to do with the site.

    Shade said the district's environmental consultant is preparing a response to the study released in February.


    Copyright © 2000, The Columbus Dispatch