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Testing shows no contamination at school facility, critics say it’s not enough

By Catherine Hunter

After recent concerns regarding possible contamination of the Buncombe County Schools (BCS) Administration facility on Bingham Road, the monitoring well close to the build once again shows no contaminates detected. Yet critics say this is not enough and are demanding soil testing and air quality testing inside the building.

BCS purchased the administrative office located at 175 Bingham Road from Square D in 1989. In the early 1990’s contamination was found in the wells located across Bingham Road on the original Square D property. In addition there are two wells located on the 175 Bingham Road property near the entrance next to the road, 800 feet from the building, which are showing contaminates.

However the well closest to the BCS building, approximately 150 feet, not only tested clear in the 1990’s, but once again showed no contamination in the recent tests conducted on August 4 and 8 of this year. Critics such as Robert Malt, Executive Director of Buncombe Forward are concerned about the contamination from the wells near the road spreading through ground water.

“If we’re going to spend $4 million on the building why not get the soil and air quality tested?” asked Malt who added that he was concerned about mercury, lead and arsenic contaminates in the soil.

BCS is considering revamping the building, which is due for upgrades, to include some space for STEM classes. Though the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (NCDENR ) has not yet responded, sources say they have indicated if the ground water testing shows no contaminates, there is no reason to test soil or air quality.

BCS Superintendent Dr. Tony Baldwin said, “Even though we are on city water and have no reason to believe we have an issue in our buildings, we take health and safety issues seriously. We are very pleased with the test results from the monitoring well closest to our buildings, which confirm the results of the testing done 17 years ago.”

Baldwin went on to confirm the approval of an additional well being drilled to include further testing. The additional well will be drilled by Schneider-Electric, the parent company for Square D and overseen by NCDENR, at no cost to BCS.

BCS Director of Communications Jan Blunt said the test will be conducted in early September and the Buncombe County Board of Education plans to hold a workshop to examine the information once testing has been completed. Blunt said, though the new well would be located close to the building, BCS would not be involved in determining the location of the new well, but that the location would be scientifically determined in concurrence with NCDENR.

The recent samples drawn from the existing well nearest the BCS building were taken by Arcadis in Raleigh hired by Schneider-Electric. BCS hired a second firm, Mountain Environmental Group to also take samples.

These samples were sent to three independent laboratories, Pace Analytical Services in Asheville, Pace Analytical Services in Huntersville and Prism Laboratories in Charlotte. All samples indicated no detection of contaminates.

BCS officials say they will not continue with plans for classrooms within the current buildings until they are assured by NCDENR the location is completely safe.

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