Initial EPA Test In Burlington Finds Chemicals Below Federal Danger Levels

Aug 23, 2018

According to initial test results from the Environmental Protection Agency, levels of airborne chemicals in Burlington's Old North End neighborhood are below those considered dangerous to human health by the federal government.

The agency's first tests showed levels of the chemicals perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE) well below what the agency considers hazardous to human health. However, levels of PCE at the Integrated Arts Academy elementary school did exceed what the state of Vermont deems safe. State levels are considerably lower than the federal standards.

"And therefore, the state is going to continue working with the school to monitor indoor air and to take mitigating steps," said Alexandra Dunn, the EPA's regional director for New England.

More from VPR — EPA Testing For Hazardous Chemicals In Burlington Neighborhood [Aug. 8]

The chemicals are often used in dry cleaning; Dunn said there was a dry cleaner and other industry in the area decades ago, but said it's unclear if that was the source of the chemicals.

The EPA will try to determine the chemicals' source when testing resumes next week in nearby homes and public roads, Dunn said.

"And then of course we'll continue to communicate both with the state environment department, as well as the health department, and residents" Dunn said, "so that we can keep everyone apprised of our progress."

Dunn said the chemicals can cause cancer and developmental issues in fetuses and can effect the immune and central nervous systems at high levels of exposure or over long periods of time. 

In an EPA release issued Thursday, officials also said there is no related health concern with activities involving the soil on the school grounds, and there is no indication that homegrown produce is affected by the presence of the chemicals.