Vermont state officials have asked the legislature for more time to test older schools for PCBs, a harmful group of chemicals commonly used in building materials and electrical equipment before 1980.
The PCB testing program is part of a law passed by the Legislature last year. It requires every school constructed or renovated before 1980 to test their indoor air for PCBs by July 1, 2024. The legislation came after the closure of Burlington High School two years ago because of the discovery of PCB contamination in air samples.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Peter Walke told the House Committee on Education this week that his department doesn’t have enough staff to get all that work done in two years. The state is seeking two more years to complete the work. “Even with four years it’ll still be tight,” Walke said.
The legislation allocated $4.5 million based on the state’s initial projection of about 300 schools. The state now says 348 schools were built or renovated before 1979 and require testing while roughly 70 schools had not yet responded to a state survey.
If levels of polychlorinated biphenyls are detected at or above school action levels, the schools will be required to reduce potential exposure, the state has said. The legislation only created the testing requirement and did not outline how to administer testing or pay for remediation, the news station reported. Walke has proposed that the Legislature create a contingency fund to help districts cover the costs.
“Being able to move quickly will be important,” he said.