Mercury Hazard & Information

  • Superintendent's Letter to School Community Advising of Mercury Containment in APR Floor - August 20, 2019

     

    In the spring of 2019 District Personnel became aware of the potential threat rubber-like floors in schools presented to faculty, staff and students who occupied spaces where the floor was present. The threat results from rubber-like polyurethane floors that contain phenyl mercuric acetate (PMA). When PMA breaks down it may release an odorless, colorless mercury vapor. Mercury is used in more than 3,000 consumer products from batteries, thermostats and fluorescent light bulbs to cleaners such as chlorine, caustic soda and oven cleaners. If inhaled, it could produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems. 

     

    This issue came to the forefront when the Washington Township School District (Gloucester County) - Mercury Concern in Washington Township (Courier-Post, 4/2/19) - confirmed that a number of their floors contained PMA, resulting in action steps to address. As a result, many other schools, including the South Harrison Twp. Elementary School District, engaged in testing this spring and the purpose of this website is to ensure transparency with our school community by communicating to our faculty, staff, students and families the results of those tests and steps the District plans to take resolve this matter as quickly as possible.

     

    Please know that we take the responsibility of ensuring safety and the well-being of our faculty, staff and students seriously and will continue to update our school community as we progress through this situation. As a result, we have begun the process of gaining a better understanding of the issue and will begin developing specifications for removal of the flooring as soon as possible. 

     
     

     

Testing Procedures

  • First, we identified that the rubber-like floor in the elementary school gymnasium/all purpose room (APR) is a similar product described in most reports on the matter and was installed more than 20 years ago (circa 1990), during a time when PMA was used in to cure these floors.

     

    Test bulk samples of the floors

    We engaged Epic Environmental to take full thickness bulk samples on April 17, 2019 and submitted them to EMSL Analytical for analysis. The sampling procedures were performed in accordance with the "Mercury Hazard in Schools from Rubber-like Polyurethane Floors - Health and Safety Guide." Any flooring material containing more than 1 milligram per kilogram (mg/Kg) is to be classified "mercury-containing." The results of our analysis confirmed that we did indeed have mercury-containing floors and the results of this analysis is below. To review this report in its entirety, click EPIC Bulk Floor Sampling - April 17, 2019.

     

    • APR by Exit - 200 mg/Kg
    • APR by Stage - 75 mg/Kg

     

    Measure Airborne Mercury

    Epic Environmental returned to take air samples on May 2, 2019 in the APR and stage. Samples were collected for a period of seven hours and thirty minutes while ventilation operated normally and the room unoccupied. Dampers were set at 20 percent fresh air. Three samples were collected inside the all purpose room, one sample behind the stage curtain and one sample outside the building to establish a baseline and were taken between 7:50 a.m. and 3:27 p.m. The results were compared to the New Jersey Department of Health action limit criteria of 0.8 micrograms per cubic meter of air (µg/m3) and concluded that no sample exceeded this limit and can be found below. To review the report in its entirety, click EPIC Mercury Vapor Air Sampling - May 2, 2019.

     

    • APR by Gym Office - 0.45 µg/m3
    • APR by Gym Office - 0.37 µg/m3
    • APR by Stage - 0.57 µg/m3
    • APR behind Curtain - 0.40 µg/m3
    • Outside by APR Exit - 0.11 µg/m3 (none detected)

     

    Measure Airborne Mercury "Worst Case Scenario"

    Epic Environmental returned a third time on July 26, 2019 to assess mercury vapor concentrations in the APR in accordance with Mercury Hazard in Schools from Rubber-like Polyurethane Floors - Health and Safety Guide for "Worst Case Scenario" evaluation. Therefore, the ventilation was not operating for a period of eight hours prior to sampling and during sampling and temperatures were permitted to rise inside the APR. These conditions represent a scenario where maximum levels of mercury vapor are expected to be generated from the rubberized flooring. The room was unoccupied and samples were collected over a period of six hours. Samples were analyzed by EMSL and compared to the New Jersey Department of Health action limit criteria of 0.8 micrograms per cubic meter of air (µg/m3) and concluded that mercury vapor concentrations inside the APR were above the limit and can be found below. To review the report in its entirety, click EPIC Mercury Vapor Air Sampling (Worst Case Scenario) - July 26, 2019.

     

    • APR by Gym Office - 1.0 µg/m3
    • APR by Gym Office - 1.0 µg/m3
    • APR by Stage - 2.0 µg/m3
    • APR behind Curtain - 0.89 µg/m3

     

    Hazardous Waste Classification Sampling

    EPIC Environmental returned on September 12, 2019 to determine if the flooring would be classified as a mercury containing hazardous waste if removed. The subsequent analysis of the sampling predicts how the material would act if in a landfill in order to estimate how much contaminant, if mercury, would leach into the environment. A result of 0.2 mg/L or above is considered failing, meaning the material would be classified as hazardous waste if removed. The results of our sampling determined that the concentration was above the 0.2 mg/L threshold and a summary of the results are below. To review the report in its entirety, click EPIC Hazardous Waste Classification Sampling - September 16, 2019.

     

    • APR by Exit - 2.1 mg/L

     

    Core Samples of Concrete Sub-Floor

    EPIC Environmental performed concrete corings in three locations in the South Harrison Twp. Elementary School All Purpose Room (APR) in an effort to assess whether mercury has leached into the concrete sub floor from the rubberized flooring and, if the concrete would be deemed hazardous waste if removed. Two of the three samples were classified as hazardos while the third was considered non-hazardous. The threshold was 0.2 mg/L and a summary of those results are below. To review the report in its entirety, click EPIC Core Samples of Concrete Sub-Floor - October 23. 2019.

     

    • APR near Stage - o.025 mg/L (Non-Hazardous)
    • APR Center by Wall - 0.29 mg/L (Hazardous)
    • APR near Water Coolers - 1.23 mg/L (Hazardous)

     

     

     

Recommendations & Action Steps

  • Based on the information we have identified through sampling, the South Harrison Twp. Elementary School District must, minimally (1) maintain proper ventilation in the APR. If at any time the ventilation system is not operational, the District will close the APR and relocate activities to a suitable area for as long as necessary. (2) The District will engage EPIC Environmental to regularly take air samples to ensure that our faculty, staff and students are not exposed to mercury vapor. (3) Recognizing that the only way to permanently eliminate the hazard of a mercury-containing floor is to remove it, which will require long-term planning to raise the necessary funds and ensure the floor is removed when the school is not occupied. Therefore, the District has begun the necessary steps to explore removing this floor. As the process unfolds, we will continue to update our school community on any developments, which may include the possibility of relocating physical education classes.

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