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  • Chemical concerns at River Valley aired

    SLUDGE from E1

    Friday, May 26, 2000

    Tom Sheehan
    Dispatch Staff Reporter

    MARION, Ohio -- While plans call for new school buildings in three years, airborne chemical contaminants could affect students and others at River Valley high and middle schools in the meantime unless the site is cleaned up, some residents said last night.

    Officials last week announced a plan to combine federal, state and local money to build a new high school and middle school at another location by August 2003. If those plans proceed, the current schools, on Rt. 98 east of Marion, will remain open, and a cleanup of chemical contamination will be postponed.

    The schools were built on a former military depot where chemical waste was dumped. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal and state agencies have been investigating the 72-acre school campus since 1997.

    Jim Shade, a member of an advisory group that meets to discuss contamination issues, asked at a meeting last night whether a temporary dirt cap or something else could help contain contamination in the soil. He said he was worried about volatile gases escaping into the air from parts of the school campus and other areas west of the schools, including an Army Reserve training site.

    "Is there a Band-Aid we could put on it now?'' he asked corps and other officials.

    Jodi Griffith, another advisory board member, shared Shade's concerns.

    "Air monitoring has shown TCE (trichloroethylene, a solvent used to clean metal parts) gases, with the highest level near the reserve site,'' she said. "Are we somewhat assuming nothing is coming from the Reserve site?''

    Kevin Jasper, project manager with the corps, and Jeff Steers of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency told Shade, Griffith and others that more air monitoring take place at the schools this summer. Jasper said that while the school investigation has been extensive, the investigation on the Reserve site is in the early stages. The Reserve site also sits on the 640-acre former depot.

    "There is no indication of the release of gases'' exceeding safe levels, Steers said. "If something would surface to show conditions are changing, we would push the Army to do something about it.''

    Steers said the Army will begin monthly air monitoring outside the schools, and the EPA will check the air every three months inside the schools.

    The Army has pledged $15 million of the estimated $24.3 million cost to build new schools. Congress must approve legislation giving the corps the authority to consider school relocation as a cleanup option.

    The state plans to contribute $4.7 million. Voters would have to approve a $19.6 million bond issue for the local share. Part of that money would go for the high school and middle school and the rest to build two new elementary schools to replace three aging, crowded ones.


    Copyright 2000, The Columbus Dispatch