Press Release August 10, 2019
From: David Halloran Superintendent, Gloversville Enlarged School District
The Gloversville Enlarged School District wishes to inform the community of recent actions and findings regarding the contaminated soil in the field adjacent to Kingsborough Elementary School. The safety of students, staff and community members is our highest priority and this press release is intended to inform the community of the reasons behind, and results of, recent soil and air testing conducted at Kingsborough Elementary School in July.
In late June, the district hired Ambient Environmental Inc. of Albany, New York to conduct soil testing in the playing field west of the Kingsborough Elementary School. This was done because of recent physical changes in the field’s surface. It had become uneven and rutted with standing water in various places and sulfur odor was present.
Concerns with the field at Kingsborough is not new. In 1991 an environmental study of the site was conducted by EDER Associates Consulting Engineers of Locust Valley, New York. That report stated that tannery waste was deposited on the site prior to construction of the school building in 1972. The disposal history of the material is not documented. After analysis of the makeup of the tannery waste, that report concluded that; “remedial action such as excavating a large volume of soil from the playing field and/or groundwater remediation do not appear warranted except as a risk aversion measure.” In short, the 1991 report indicated that the field was safe for student and community use, as long as the ground was not disturbed. The field was thus used accordingly since that time, and it was only due to recent changes in the field that the district decided to conduct another environmental study.
On July 9, 2019, experienced environmental professionals from Ambient Environmental directed the excavation of 17 test pits in the field and took soil and water samples. They also conducted air quality monitoring throughout the dig, and at no time was the air quality compromised in the “breathing zone”. A New York State Department of Environmental Conservation official was also on-site that day. The testing did create an unpleasant sulfur odor as tannery waste was encountered in 10 of the 17 pits. In those locations, care was taken to backfill the waste first, followed by the clean soil, to limit exposure on the surface.
On July 16, 2019, Ambient Environmental and Alpha Analytical also conducted air quality testing at multiple locations inside Kingsborough Elementary School at our request. They were evaluating indoor air quality conditions to determine the presence/absence of detectable volatile organic compound (VOC) vapors. According to the Ambient report, detected concentrations were found to be “well below all OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs)”. This means that air quality, both inside and outside the school building is completely normal and safe.
The Board of Education and I are committed to addressing this issue properly and safely and wish to do so in a manner that will allow unfettered use of the field for generations to come. Based upon findings from this report, as well as information gathered from previous testing, we are very confident that the Kingsborough school building itself and all other areas of the property are safe for students and staff. Although the surface of the field containing waste material has been deemed safe for use in the past, we are limiting access to that portion of the property as a precautionary measure, as we determine the best path forward.
The Board of Education will hear findings and options directly from Mr. James Blasting of Ambient Environmental at a meeting at 6:00 PM on August 15, 2019, in the Board of Education Meeting Room located in the lower level of the Middle School, at 234 Lincoln Street, Gloversville, New York.
Aside from Ambient Environmental Inc, the district has worked closely on this issue with Gloversville Mayor Vincent DeSantis, Assemblyman Robert Smullen, New York State Department of Education and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. All have the safety of students, staff, and community members as their highest priority and I thank all for their engagement and concern.
In an effort to be fully transparent, the report from Ambient Environment will be made available on our district website in the near future. We appreciate and share the valid concerns many have regarding this issue and vow to remain steadfast in our efforts to properly ameliorate for current and future generations.