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For Release: Sunday, February 24, 2013

DEC and DOH Announce Results of Tests Reveal No Contamination at Albany High School

Officials: Based on test results, there is no reason to change any planned activities at the school

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the State Department of Health (DOH) announced tonight that results of air quality testing reveal no contamination at Albany High School after recent surveys of adjacent federal property uncovered contamination in the soil.

DEC and DOH undertook the tests, with technical assistance provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, on Thursday after being notified by the U.S. Army, which operates facilities immediately adjacent to the high school, that recent surveys found elevated levels of certain contaminants in the groundwater below the fence line that separates the federal property and the high school. The preliminary state air quality tests, which were received on Saturday, indicated that the contamination is not present in the indoor air of the school and, based upon this information, there is no reason to change any planned activities at the school.

In addition, although the contaminant, PCE (also known as tetracholoroethene, tetracholorethylene or PERC), has been found in groundwater near the federal site, there is no drinking water threat as the community uses municipal water. The purpose of the current sampling was to evaluate whether PCE had entered the school by a process known as "soil vapor intrusion," which could have affected the school's indoor air quality and whether there would have been a related health concern.

In January 2013, DEC was notified of an investigation, carried out by the U.S. Army at the James J. O'Donovan Armed Forces Reserve Center (AFRC), which is located near the corner of North Main Avenue and Washington Avenue, adjacent to Albany High School in Albany County. The investigation found elevated levels of PCE in the groundwater below the fence line between AFRC and Albany High School.

In response to these findings and as a precautionary measure, DEC, in conjunction with NYSDOH, took swift action to collect air samples from inside and beneath Albany High School to determine whether PCE can also be measured inside the High School. This sampling focused on the potential of chemical contamination (volatile organic compounds) to move from subsurface areas such as soil or groundwater (where there is limited exposure to the public) into indoor air of overlying buildings, a process known as soil vapor intrusion.

The preliminary results of the air testing indicate PCE is not present in the indoor air of the school.

With respect to nearby residential properties, DEC and EPA are meeting this week with the Department of Defense (DOD), which is the owner of the federal facility, about sampling to fully characterize the AFRC site and the surrounding area. DOD has plans to investigate whether contaminated groundwater is moving through the ground and if so, in what direction. Additional sampling outside the AFRC facility may be needed, including on some residential properties.

DEC and DOH will work with DOD and EPA to determine whether soil gas should also be sampled on an expedited basis along Washington and North Main Avenues, and whether indoor air samples in homes and businesses should be taken. If sampling is needed, representatives of DOD will contact affected homeowners.

DOD will be the lead on all future cleanup efforts with respect to this contamination. The DEC and EPA will work closely with DOD to expedite the necessary investigation. Any questions may be directed to DOH at 518-402-7800 or 800-458-1158 for health concerns or, for remediation information, to the EPA at 212-637-3660 or the DEC at 518-402-9706.

Additional information regarding this effort is available at: DEC's website and DOH's website (link leaves DEC's website).

DEC Contact: Lori Severino, 518-402-8000
DOH Contact: Bill Schwarz, 518-474-7354 ext. 1

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