Vermont rolls out PCB school mitigation program

Published: Feb. 2, 2022 at 2:35 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - After months of deliberations, Vermont has launched a first-of-its-kind program to address PCB contamination in the state’s schools.

Starting this spring, every school constructed or renovated before 1980 -- an estimated 300 schools -- will have to undergo testing.

Vermont is the first state in the nation to require PCB testing in schools following a law that went into effect this past summer. The rules come on the heels of the closure of Burlington High School in 2020 following the discovery of the carcinogen in air samples.

PCBs were commonly used in building materials and electrical equipment before they were banned by the EPA in 1980. They have been linked to a variety of adverse health effects including cancer and effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems.

The Department of Environmental Conservation says the new standards for schools follow the health department’s recommendations announced in November. Schools must take mitigation measures if PCB levels in the air are detected at or exceed:

  • 100 nanograms per cubic meter in buildings used by 7th graders to adults.
  • 60 nanograms per cubic meter in buildings used by kindergarteners to 6th graders.
  • 30 nanograms per cubic meter in buildings used by pre-kindergartners.

Reducing PCB contamination can require costly fixes. The DEC has recommended districts budget between $10,000 and $300,000 per school just to test building materials, with an additional $50,000 to $200,000 for the repairs. In a worst-case scenario, the price tag might be as high as $1-to-18 million. And if schools don’t comply, the DEC can sue them.

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