The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VTDEC), in consultation with the Vermont Department of Health, has been monitoring indoor air quality at the Integrated Arts Academy at the H.O. Wheeler School as part of an ongoing environmental investigation in the area of Elmwood Avenue in Burlington’s Old North End neighborhood. This is due to the presence of two chemicals – perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE) – in the soil gas (air pockets between soil particles), which could enter the air inside nearby buildings; including the Integrated Arts Academy.
Test results of indoor and outdoor air at the school show that it is safe for students, teachers and staff to be at school. TCE was not found in any of the samples collected on the school grounds or in the building. PCE was found in indoor air at very low levels on the first floor and in the basement of the school. These levels do not present a health risk.
More information about the chemicals
PCE and TCE are often associated with dry cleaning and degreasing solvents. Perchloroethylene is also known as tetrachloroethene, tetrachloroethylene, and perc. PCE and TCE are part of a group of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs can transfer from groundwater into a gas and move through the tiny open spaces between soil particles. Soil gas can enter structures through a basement or crawl space, walls or floors, particularly when holes or cracks are present. Once in a structure, the colorless and often odorless gas may collect in the basement or move to upper levels. The movement of VOCs from groundwater or soil vapor and into a structure is referred to as vapor intrusion.
VTDEC will resample indoor air in the school basement to verify that detections in indoor air are consistently below the residential screening value. This sample will be collected during the warm weather months to determine if there is a seasonal influence on the potential for vapor intrusion.
VTDEC has identified and is working with the parties who may be responsible for the source of contamination on Elmwood Avenue. The State of Vermont is working with the potentially responsible parties to complete an investigation and determine the actions needed to clean up any source(s) of the contamination and mitigate exposure to impacted properties in the study area.
Health Impacts of PCE and TCE
PCE and TCE can produce a variety of health effects. Exposure to these chemicals can increase a person’s risk of getting cancer. The chemicals can affect the development of a baby if a woman is exposed to them while pregnant. These chemicals can also affect the immune system and central nervous system. Health effects vary, depending on the level of exposure and the length of exposure.
Integrated Arts Academy at the H.O. Wheeler school Information:
Click here for indoor air sample results at HO Wheeler School
Click here for August Sub-slab soil gas sample results at H.O. Wheeler School
More Resources and Information:
Dry Cleaning Chemicals
ToxFAQ for TCE
ToxFAQ for PCE