KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 2, 2001 -- Officials of the University of Rhode Island and its consulting firm, Environmental Health and Engineering (EH&E) of Newton, Mass., presented the latest round of additional testing results in the Chafee Social Science Center at a public meeting held yesterday.
The results, part of a four-month process to characterize the source of PCB contamination in the Chafee building since its closing on December 23, 2000, showed a positive link between PCBs found in dust and air samples and PCBs found in window caulking and gaskets.
"With a definitive link between PCBs found in dust and air samples and PCBs found in window assembly of the materials, the University can move forward with complete window assembly replacement and cleanup of the building," said Vernon Wyman, URI assistant vice president for business services. Wyman noted that the cleanup plan is subject to the approval of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
With a total project estimate set at about $3. 8 million, the University has sought emergency funding from the state for the testing, building cleanup, lab fees, consultants fees, medical testing of occupants of Chafee, and the epidemiological study. The most costly part of the plan is the replacement of about 220 windows, the window gaskets and the caulking.
Last week the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education voted unanimously to seek state assistance for the project. In a letter to Gov. Lincoln Almond, Higher Education Commissioner William R. Holland said the only responsible course of action for the board was to seek help from the state.
"There is a growing understanding and recognition that the process applied here is a groundbreaking one with far reaching implications," said Wyman.
The complete low rise, with a two-story section and the lecture halls, should be available for occupancy in August 2001. The remediation of the high rise section of the building would be conducted over the following 12-month period for reopening before fall 2002.
The work on the first two floors of the building must begin this week, so that section will be ready for occupancy in September. "When completed, 70 occupants would be returned to this section of the building and enough classroom space would become available to meet the curriculum needs.
"Every possible space on campus will be considered for use and conversion to accommodate the remaining faculty and staff displaced from the high-rise section of the building for the upcoming fall," added Wyman.
The analysis for specific types of PCBs, called congener analysis, was completed by Triangle Laboratories in Durham, N.C. for EH&E. Because there are 209 types of PCBs, congener analysis is the only way to determine if the PCBs from suspected sourcesin this case the window caulking and gaskets would match the PCBs in the air and dust samples.
"The most important question we had was: what do we believe is the source of the PCBs were seeing in the dust in the building, as well as some of the air samples, particularly those collected in the high rise section of the building?" said Kevin Coghlan, technical director of EH&E.
Coghlan said the other goal is to address exposure risk of the occupants, which is being examined by Donna Voorhees, a scientist working with EH&E, and the team from the Boston University School of Public Health, who are developing the epidemiological study.
Coghlan said all of the PCBs in the source materials, the caulking, the gaskets, and the mastic from the ventilators, highly correlate with the PCBs in the dust samples.
"Its a critical finding for us, because once we remediate these materials, we should be eliminating PCBs from coming into the building because we are getting rid of the source," Coghlan said.
In the dioxin and furan results, the floor grout samples showed very low levels. However, in the dust samples, the levels for dioxin ranged from .426 parts per million to 588.22 parts per million in unit ventilator dust.
Coghlan said that while levels of dioxin and furans were detected, they are among the least toxic of dioxin compounds. Dioxins are a product of combustion and have been linked to diesel engines as well as cigarette smoking.
Coghlan and Wyman both agreed that further samples will be collected to determine whether or not the dioxin represents a localized presence in the two-story low rise. "We have four samples, and that is the broadest study ever done," said Coghlan. "It makes it difficult to put these results into context, but the dioxin results will be integrated into the risk assessment," he added.
For Information: Linda A. Acciardo, 874-2116, Dave Lavallee, 874-2116