Methane and carbon monoxide have been detected in soil underneath two Pleasantville schools built atop a landfill, but there is no immediate threat to students and faculty, Superintendent Garnell Bailey said.
There were no gases detected within the school buildings, Paul Kenny, a licensed site remediation professional who works with Remington & Vernick Engineers assigned to the Pleasantville School District said in an email Tuesday.
A complete report from an investigation into the gas issue should be completed in the next three months, Kenny said. After that, the options for mitigation will be considered.
“We have not yet designed the mitigation system and are currently looking at a number of options. We anticipate that the mitigation system will consist of a series of sumps throughout the building interiors, with attached pumps to draw the air from beneath the slab through pipes to the roof line,” Kenny said. “Depending on the NJDEP requirements, the pumped air may be treated prior to release to the atmosphere. “
Bailey notified the Board of Education at its Sept. 25 meeting, a day after receiving verbal notification that the gases were detected underneath the Middle School and High School.
The district had received a compliance alert from the state Department of Environmental Protection on Jan. 30 saying that a deadline was approaching to hire a licensed site remediation professional, or LSRP, to oversee the investigation and remediation of the site, Bailey said.
The screenings are required under a 2009 state law requiring sites with potential contaminants to be tested.
The school district has until May 2017 to install the ventilation system, but Board Secretary Dennis Mulvihill said the goal is to begin work on retrofitting the buildings by the coming summer.
Kenny said that part of the concern is that methane is a flammable gas. But he said this should not be a problem outdoors because of air flow.
In addition to the issue at the two schools, a field house planned for student athletes is now prohibited because no new structures can be built on a site that has contaminants on it, according to the 2009 DEP Site Remediation Reform Act.
There is a possibility of using adjacent school-owned land that is not over a landfill, Kenny said.
State monitor John Riehman said it may be possible to use areas along the outer perimeter of the field.
DEP spokesperson Bob ConsidineCQ wrote in an email that the Jan. 30 notice received by the Pleasantville School District was sent to thousands of owners of remediated properties. The 2009 act established the LSRP as part of an overhaul of the state’s site-remediation system. Owners of properties on remediated land prior to Nov. 4, 2009, had until May 7 to hire one.
Both the Pleasantville Middle and High schools were built above a landfill in 1996, Bailey said, explaining that the landfill consists of materials such as construction debris, concrete, stumps, tree limbs and trash.
“We have no record of this site ever being a landfill and it is not on the DEP’s registered landfill list. Some records did show, however, that it was a former gravel pit. It may have been backfilled with demo debris. If that debris contained wood, that could be a source of methane,” Considine said.
In 1997, a DEP study showed a need for creating standards to measure gases and contamination and ensuring a cap of 2 feet was kept between hazardous materials and any building constructed, Bailey explained.
"Luckily, ours is 4 to 8 feet above (the landfill)," Mulvihill said.
This means that the school was built with a cushion of land well above the state-required cap.
The land for the school property had most of the remediation completed, including some capping, but the Board of Education did not file a deed notice with environmental restrictions on the property before going through with development, Considine said. “The DEP continued to ask the school board to follow through on the deed notice. Efforts were made in 2010 to make sure the deed notice was properly filed for contaminants that remained on the site. In 2011, the BOE began trying to resolve those issues and got environmental contractors to close it out.”
If the issues had been determined back then and addressed by the developers and architects at the time, the school district would not be facing this issue today, Bailey said.
The problem does not exist in areas of newer landfills because piping systems are set up to drain out liquids and prevent gaseous buildup, Gloucester County environmental engineer Brad Summerville, said in a phone interview last week.
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