Vt. officials fast-track $2.5M for PCB school testing, remediation

Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 5:42 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont lawmakers Monday fast-tracked $2.5 million in funding to deal with PCBs in schools, part of the state’s first-in-the-nation effort to identify and remediate the toxic chemical.

Burlington High School was shut down in 2020 over concerns about PCB contamination. It sparked a statewide conversation and new laws last year to take a comprehensive look at all of Vermont’s aging schools.

“As challenging as our experience with COVID was and communicating that, this far exceeds that in so many ways,” said Vt. Education Secretary Dan French.

PCBs have been linked to types of cancer and other negative health effects and can be found in a variety of building materials used in school construction prior to 1979, when it was banned.

Vermont lawmakers last year earmarked $32 million for investigating, testing, and remediating PCBs in schools, the first state in the country to move forward with such a program

“There aren’t a lot of opportunities for us to glean lessons learned from peer organizations in other states. They are watching us,” said Vermont Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore.

Testing began this summer and the full mitigation plan is coming out in January. So far, the state has received results from six schools.

“Two of them -- The Oak Grove School in Brattleboro and Cabot schools -- have resulted in one or more rooms that exceeded the school action level or the immediate action level and require prompt attention,” Moore said.

Vermont’s Emergency Board Monday gave the green light to spend $2.5 million to help schools where PCBs have been identified.

to purchase supplies to immediately mitigate the problem and provide cost share to schools to conduct additional testing. “It allows us to move quickly to get into a space and seek to identify the sources of contamination -- all part of that mitigation strategy,” French said. He says testing and remediation could have big implications for keeping kids in the classroom over the coming years. The oldest schools and those serving the youngest students will be tested first. “The issue at the end of the day is how are we going to make sure the $32 million is used appropriately across schools when we don’t know the full need.”

Lawmakers say they expect the $32 million will barely scratch the surface once the extent of the contamination is determined and that the state will need to lean on the feds for more funding.

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