Acceptable soil test will allow school construction Officials set toluene limits for Riverside site

July 12, 1992|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

Harford public school administrators have agreed to begin construction on a new elementary school in Riverside if another test on soil at the proposed site shows acceptable levels of toluene, a chemical found in gasoline.

The chemical was detected during one test at the site.

The Riverside Community Association, which has been pushing to get construction started, had asked for a written agreement on the issue and had even asked Riverside's developer, BLC Inc., to ban county employees and environmental consultants from the site until such an agreement was struck, said Pat Benedict, a vice president of the board of directors.

The written agreement came July 8 when Albert G. Eilbacher, administrative assistant in facilities for Harford County Public Schools, said in a letter to BLC's attorney that construction on the 600-pupil school would begin if toluene was found at less than 1,000 parts per billion in water and 100 parts per million in air at the site.

These are the safety standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, respectively.

Ms. Benedict said the association wanted the school administrators to spell out in writing what levels of toluene it would consider acceptable before proceeding with the school, due to open September 1993.

Riverside residents sought the agreement because they felt "very frustrated" when a June 29 meeting with county and school officials failed to generate any agreement that school construction would begin if testing showed safe levels of the chemical.

That meeting was called because residents wanted to know why a third soil test had been ordered of the proposed site, at the intersection of Church Creek Road and Riverside Parkway.

Two tests, one paid for by county schools and one by BLC, had said that the site was safe for school construction.

FWA Environmental Associates Inc., which was hired by the school board to do the second test, found 44 parts per billion of toluene on the site.

The company said that such a small amount of toluene, which is not a carcinogen, posed no safety hazard.

Questions about the safety of the site, which was chosen in 1989, surfaced when members of a drilling crew said they become ill while working on the site in February.

No reason for the illness was discovered.

In addition to specifying testing parameters, the community association and county administrators agreed in writing to allow community representatives to attend "any and all meetings, presentations or discussions" involving the results of the testing.

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