Hanover Goes to School on TCE; Waiting On Further Tests
Larry Cain, with the Army Corps of Engineers, explains to Adina Desaulniers of Etna, Christine Desaulniers of Etna, and Lisa Blackburn of Hanover about the extent of TCE testing at Richmond Middle School in Hanover yesterday. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Army Col. Kevin Wilson welcomes attendees at the beginning of the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory Open House at Richmond Middle School in Hanover yesterday. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — After learning on Friday that trichloroethylene was present in a Dartmouth College owned house, officials were relieved to find out this week that two other vacant homes showed no sign of the chemical compound that can cause cancer.
But the good news was tempered by mixed feelings among neighbors of the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, where TCE was discovered at the property boundary earlier this year. Teachers and parents at an open house at Richmond Middle School last night still expressed concern, while noting they don’t want to jump to conclusions until more tests have been conducted. Five residents at Dartmouth-owned housing south of CRREL have asked to be relocated after initial test results revealed an air-borne TCE presence in one home, as well as benzene and carbon tetrachloride.
The discovery of levels have caused officials to expand their testing to adjacent properties, including Richmond Middle School and five homes owned by Dartmouth College in the Fletcher-Cedar neighborhood.
TCE was used at CRREL from 1960 to 1987 as a refrigerant but leaked from storage tanks over the years. It has also been used as a degreaser and solvent in dry cleaning and is known to cause cancer and can effect the central nervous system and immune system.
Dartmouth College and Richmond Middle School decided to hire their own environmental consultants to conduct testing prior to what will be done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Dartmouth is now conducting air testing in all 32 Fletcher-Cedar homes, and that testing started on Monday. Of the five tenants who have asked to be relocated, three plan to move, one wants to be relocated pending more testing results and one person wants to be relocated permanently, Dartmouth College spokesman Justin Anderson said.
Of the three homes that were tested, one is next to the fence on the CRREL property line, another is across the street from the property line, and a third is south and farther away from the property line than many other houses in the neighborhood, Anderson said.
Benzene was found in two of the homes and carbon tetracholoride was found in one of the homes, Anderson said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers benzene to be a cause of cancer. It can be found in tobacco smoke, as well emissions from burning coal and oil as well as in car exhaust.
Many Fletcher-Cedar residents declined to comment following an informational meeting held Monday night at the Dartmouth College Real Estate Office, and numerous residents attended an open house last night about TCE contamination at Richmond Middle School.
About 40 people came prepared with questions as they walked from booth to booth through the middle school gym, which was set up like a science fair with such topics as mitigation measures and risk assessment and health effects.
Officials at CRREL have known about TCE contamination since 1990, but most people at yesterday’s open house only heard about TCE for the first time last week.
Suzanne Sylvester, a sixth grade English teacher, stood in front of a poster that said, “Conceptual vapor mitigation for a school,” and asked Dan Groher with the Army Corps of Engineers how long it would take to implement a mitigation system.
“If we took samples, analyze the samples and it’s bad, we’d do it as fast as we can,” Groher said.
That was the answer that Sylvester wanted to hear.
“What’s important for me to know as a teacher, if there is a concern I want them to jump on it right away,” Sylvester said. “I wanted to hear that right away that they can do things to mitigate the situation.”
The teachers at Richmond Middle School learned about TCE last week when they were told that a faint amount of the chemical compound was discovered in the principal’s office. However, the trace was so small that it didn’t cause school administrators alarm.
Dresden School Board member Anne Day has a son in eighth grade and said she feels comfortable sending him to the middle school.
“I think the biggest issue is there are still a lot of unknowns,” Day said. “There is more testing that needs to be done. We don’t have the full picture at this point.”
Bert Davis has worked at CRREL for 22 years and has a sixth grade daughter at the middle school and a third grader at the Ray School. Both children attended the day care on CRREL’s campus before he was aware of the of vapor intrusion.
Bert said he’s not overly worried about TCE contamination.
“My apparent lack of concern is that I know enough about it as a parent,” Davis said.
While many parents are just now learning about TCE and beginning to realize that the school is undergoing tests for the contaminant, Davis has had time to research and process the information.
“Keep asking questions until you feel comfortable, if you ever will,” Davis said. “Take some time to see how you feel about it and if you feel uncomfortable, learn more. I came to terms with it by coming familiar with the situation.”
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3223.