The Environmental Protection Agency is testing the soil and air in a Burlington neighborhood for the presence of potentially hazardous chemicals.
The state asked for the EPA’s help after a preliminary investigation indicated contamination from two chemicals associated with dry cleaning products.
EPA spokeswoman Emily Bender said the state requested assistance last month “to conduct a preliminary assessment and further define the environmental conditions” in the neighborhood around Elmwood Avenue.
The EPA said the state found soil gas concentrations of perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE) that suggested the contaminants may also be present in indoor air in the surrounding buildings. Both chemicals were commonly used in dry cleaning and are considered carcinogens.
Work began Monday at the Integrated Arts Academy on Archibald Street, and at a residence located near the northern end of Elmwood Avenue.
The Burlington School Department released this statement Wednesday about the testing:
"At this time, we view this testing to be a proactive measure. We have been told that we can expect to receive the results before school starts and our team is prepared for any scenario the EPA may present. We want to reiterate that there is no cause for alarm, Integrated Arts Academy was not the source of this contaminant, and that we have been cooperating to make sure this testing is done in a timely manner. We will update our community as more information becomes available.”
Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore said the risk for residents is still unknown.
“Whether residents should be concerned or not really remains to be seen and will really be based on the data EPA is collecting,” she said.
“We had collected a number of samples in that neighborhood [but] they didn’t really help us understand where the contamination was coming from and that’s part of the reason we engaged EPA to conduct a more exhaustive evaluation to make sure we understand to the best of our ability where these contaminants exist," Moore added. "Then we’ll be working with residents and the school as appropriate to implement corrective measures if needed.”
The EPA's spokeswoman said the sampling will continue through August and that results will be shared with the state and the public. The Burlington School District said it expects to know the results before the start of the school year.