NEW PALTZ – The State University of New York at New Paltz has received the latest round of routine polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) testing at the college. Such tests are conducted as a part of the maintenance and monitoring program following the 1991 PCB incident. The results continue to demonstrate that encapsulated surfaces remain below the clean up criterion of 1 microgram per 100 square centimeters, with the exception of one wall in an inaccessible transformer vault in Parker Theatre. The tests were performed by and evaluated by the New York State Department of Health.
After the 1991 accident, and under the direction of the county and state health departments, the university began a massive, thorough clean-up effort in the five buildings: Bliss, Gage and Scudder residence halls, Parker Theatre and Coykendall Science Building. As an additional precaution, 29 other buildings were thoroughly tested and, if necessary, cleaned. During the clean up, some PCBs were found on structural elements in buildings that had to be kept in place because the other alternative would have been to demolish the buildings. In these instances, an approved encapsulant was applied to create an effective barrier to contain PCBs in place, and access to these rooms was restricted.
Air sample results from the recent testing, as well as those from previous tests in 1997, 1998 and 2001, are well below the air criterion established for the post-incident clean up. Wipe samples from the recent tests were also well below the surface criterion established for the post-incident clean up with one exception. Wipe samples taken from the east wall in the Parker Theatre transformer vault slightly exceeded the acceptable level for post-incident clean-up of 1 microgram per 100 square centimeters. This surface wipe criterion is 10 times more stringent than the Federal EPA criterion of 10 micrograms per 100 square centimeters. Three of the eight samples collected in the Parker Theatre transformer vault that exceeded criterion ranged from 1.11 to 1.33 micrograms per 100 square centimeter – still well below the EPA criterion. Moreover, no PCBs were detected in the air sample from the Parker Theatre vault, and no direct contact is anticipated since the encapsulated surface is located in the former vault room with restricted access protected by a locked door.
Based upon the State and Ulster County Health Departments’ recommendation, the college will re-apply an encapsulant to all surfaces of the Parker Theatre transformer vault walls. The college is currently scheduling that work with a contractor during the winter break. Also, the college will continue its routine monitoring and inspection program with special attention to the Parker Theatre vault. If any safety issues arise during the future monitoring or testing of any of these encapsulated areas, the college will notify the campus community.
“The safety of our students and employees is of the utmost importance,” said Brian McCabe, Environmental Health and Safety Officer at SUNY New Paltz. “We continue to be committed to the consistent and thorough monitoring and testing program, and to communicating the results with the campus community.”
If you have additional questions, you may contact Brian McCabe, Environmental Health and Safety Officer at SUNY New Paltz at (845) 257-3310. In addition, testing results are available in the Sojourner Truth Library on the SUNY New Paltz campus.
For more information on the history of the 1991 PCB accident, visit www.newpaltz.edu/healthcenter/pcbupdate.html.