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Environment


Groundwater contamination plagues Ohio school
Ohio EPA approved plans to build commercial development on top of contaminated groundwater before testing nearby school  
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
EPA officials are monitoring chemicals from tainted groundwater seeping into a Cuyahoga Falls school. The problem highlights different pollution standards for commercial development vs residential usage.
Courtesy of Jeff St.Clair
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In The Region:

The US EPA is monitoring air quality at a Northeast Ohio school after gases coming from contaminated ground water led to the closing of a cafeteria.

WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair reports that environmental officials are still trying to pinpoint the extent of the contamination.

St.Clair - IHM contamination

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Summit County health officials this week closed the multipurpose room at Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Cuyahoga Falls after indoor air monitors registered three times the safe level of an industrial chemical. 

The testing registered 120 micrograms/M of PCE, or perchloroethylene, a chemical used in dry cleaning.  Safe levels for indoor air in residential structures is 40 ug/M.

At some point in the past the PCE spilled into ground water just upstream from the school and is now seeping into the building.

Ohio EPA spokeswoman Linda Oros says environmental assessments of the former State Road Shopping Center revealed the tainted groundwater.

She says the City of Cuyahoga Falls entered into a voluntary program to clean up the property, later completed by developer Stark Enterprises as Portage Crossing.

Oros says under the agreement, the property, “was cleaned up to a standard that was not for residential use, and they’re not using the ground water for drinking water, so they were considered to be meeting standards.”

Then this spring the agency decided to test the nearby school, and found low levels of PCE had migrated into the lower levels of the building. The latest, higher results led to the closing of the cafeteria / multipurpose room.

Oros says the contamination has spread -  “We have not identified exactly where the perimeters of this plume are at this stage.”

The federal EPA is now handling testing after the unsafe levels of PCE were discovered.  

In a letter to IHM staff and parents, principal Kathleen Freiss said the school is working with the US EPA to find a permanent remedy by this fall.

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