Catherine HunterCity - County Gov.

Buncombe School Board approves hazardous waste testing

By Catherine Hunter-

In the August 2 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Education approved testing for possible ground water contamination at their Bingham Rd. office site. According to documentation, Buncombe County Schools Superintendent Dr. Tony Baldwin received a letter from the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources about the possible need for future testing. The letter was dated February 8, 2012 and stated the possible need for testing a building located at 128 Bingham Rd. and 200 Bingham Rd., the old Square D plant and the old Champion Finishing Plant. These buildings are across the road from the Buncombe County Schools offices located at 175 Bingham Rd. The letter indicated the question regarding testing was raised by a January 27, 2012 phone call from a Buncombe County School Board member. According to the letter, the school board member who called, stated that the two properties in question, 175 and 200 Bingham Rd. were to be converted from industrial facility space into classrooms. However, according to Board of Education Chairman Bob Rhinehart, the board has no intention of using either property for classrooms. Read more…

Rhinehart said the Board is considering converting space in their current offices located at 175 Bingham Rd. for STEM classrooms. The letter also stated the caller inquired about possible environmental issues of the current offices located at 175 Bingham Rd. The letter shows the Old Square D and Champion Finishing plant properties are listed as inactive hazardous sites. Rhinehart and Buncombe County Schools Communications Director Jan Blunt, said the sites were tested and the groundwater wells capped and closed in the 1990’s. These testing wells include one owned by Champion located on the property near the current Buncombe County Schools (BSC) offices. Blunt said since Dr. Baldwin received the letter in February, they have been attempting to get the well on their property at 175 Bingham Rd. tested, but have been unable to get permission from the owner of the well. One email to Dr. Baldwin from BCS Maintenance Director Gregg Fox states, “The monitoring well sampling scheduled to take place today has been cancelled due to the party who installed the well (Champion’s) non response for access.” Blunt said they have finally received permission from Champion to go ahead with testing and that DNR authorities will proceed with a groundwater test on August 8. “After that we will know if we need additional testing,” said Blunt. During the meeting, board members Pat Bryant, Chip Craig and Steven Sizemore all agreed that they would not go forward with classroom plans until thorough testing proved the building was completely safe. “My wife has worked in this building for 17 years, said Bryant. “If the tests show any danger I would get her out and keep students out.” Board member Lisa Baldwin brought up the possible contamination issue during the public comment session of the meeting. She said she spoke during public comment because the board comments had been taken off the agenda. Rhinehart said he had received complaints about the board comments section of the agenda being repetitive and containing the same info every time. “If the board wants to put it back on the agenda they can do so,” he said. Though Baldwin made a motion to ad a board comments period, the motion died for lack of a second. During the meeting, the board also received a report regarding the 2012 ABC’s summary results showing: BCS rate high for growth, have two Schools of Excellence, fifteen Schools of Distinction and seventeen Schools of Progress. The board also approved receipt of a million dollar gift of a softball field for Enka High School, approved naming the circle drive at Black Mountain Primary School and approved a renewal of the Driver’s Education contract. Dr. Baldwin reported that staff and faculty will return to schools on August 13 and students’ first day will be August 16.

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