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State working on plan to address possibility of PCBs in more Vermont schools

Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 6:29 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The discovery of PCBs at Burlington High School has other districts wondering if the hazardous chemical is present in their schools, too.

Now, the state says it’s coming up with a plan.

They say they’re very worried about the situation at BHS and how it has impacted students and the community. And they say the high PCB levels at BHS warrant a statewide strategy.

Many Vermont schools were built between the 1950s and 1970s when PCBs were commonly used in construction materials. The EPA banned the use of PCBs in 1979. They say it’s likely a cancer-causing chemical.

But officials are still in the discussion phase-- the first step of addressing the potential problem. They don’t have recent PCB data from any districts besides Burlington.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said the Health Department, the Environmental Conservation Department and the Agency of Education are working collaboratively.

“It’s a little too soon for me to tell you that we have any guidance to offer school districts because it is something we have to study actively right now and proceed cautiously on to make sure we make informed decisions,” Levine said.

Levine says state officials first need to understand what PCBs are and in what buildings they’re most likely present before they can tell districts what to do.

Since testing is so expensive, they’re also figuring out if the state can help fund these efforts.

Levine says the Legislature will most certainly need to get involved at some point to approve a program similar to Act 66. That 2019 law requires all Vermont schools to test their drinking water for lead.

But until the state collects data, Levine says it’s anybody’s guess how big a problem PCBs really are.

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