CUYAHOGA FALLS: The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is collecting air and soil samples at a Catholic grade school to ensure that potentially hazardous vapors from a nearby construction site are not seeping inside.
Testing at Immaculate Heart of Mary, near the former State Road Shopping Center, began Monday. It is expected to take most of the week, EPA spokeswoman Linda Oros said.
“We are not aware of any reported health impacts and have no indication an immediate health threat exists,” the EPA said in a news release.
None of the 300-plus students nor staff is in the school at 2859 Lillis Drive this week. They will return from spring vacation Monday.
The EPA said that “out of an abundance of caution, Ohio EPA believes environmental testing is warranted to ensure the health and safety of the IHM community.”
Testing is being done to determine if vapors from a contaminated aquifer under the old shopping center that is being redeveloped as Portage Crossing have leaked into the school and community center.
The EPA has said that the source of the chemical in the aquifer is unknown.
Immaculate Heart of Mary relies on city water from Cuyahoga Falls and does not draw from the contaminated aquifer, the EPA said, but contaminants in the groundwater have the potential to evaporate and move as a gas through soil and into building foundations. That is known as vapor intrusion.
The EPA said it is paying for the collection and testing of the soil and air samples. The agency expects to post preliminary results from the air sampling Friday afternoon on the Summit County Public Health website.
Go to www.araqmd.org and click the What’s New in AQ box.
A full analysis will be released within a few weeks.
The EPA held two meetings with school employees, parents and parishioners regarding the testing April 15. Follow-up meetings will be scheduled.
The two chemicals of concern, both potential carcinogens, are:
• Trichloroethylene or TCE. It is a nonflammable, colorless liquid and solvent that is widely used to degrease metal parts, in adhesives and in paint/spot removers.
• Tetrachloroethylene or perchloroethylene (PERC). It is a man-made solvent most often associated with dry cleaning. It is nonflammable.
Breathing the vapors of either chemical can cause dizziness, headaches or lung irritation. Breathing high levels for long periods of time poses a serious concern, especially for susceptible populations, including pregnant women.
Both chemicals have been widely detected in spills and leaks in the past across Ohio. Both are common pollutants.
If vapors are found at troublesome levels, the EPA said it will work with Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Diocese of Cleveland to correct the problem.
That would likely require the installation of subsurface ventilation systems, similar to radon mitigation systems, EPA Director Craig W. Butler wrote in a two-page letter sent to school parents, employees and parishioners.
Funds from the federal EPA might be available to pay for such improvements, officials said.
If the results show no immediate concerns with vapor intrusion, the Ohio EPA would continue to monitor the area in question, the agency said.
An EPA risk assessor in February recommended the testing as part of the state’s Voluntary Action Plan being used in the Portage Crossing redevelopment.
In March, the EPA issued a covenant not to sue to the city of Cuyahoga Falls for additional cleanup at the 25-acre site. Stark Enterprises of Cleveland is redeveloping the old retail area.
The state tests are unlikely to cause any delays in the redevelopment of the mall area, said Diane Sheridan, the city’s director of community development.
Efforts to contact the Immaculate Heart of Mary pastor, the Rev. James Singler, and Principal Kathleen Friess were unsuccessful.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or email@example.com.