Franklin Schools says preliminary results of chemical testing at 2 buildings show air is safe

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FRANKLIN, Ind. (WTHR) — A reported released Friday by Franklin Community Schools says the results of 44 indoor air samples provides strong evidence the air in two schools is safe.

As 13 Investigates first reported last week, tests found unsafe levels of a cancer-causing chemical in Needham and Webb Elementary Schools.

Early Thursday evening, school officials released this statement:

Thank you for your patience as Franklin Community Schools continues to work through this process. Late this afternoon, we received preliminary data from EnviroForensics. In consultation with EnviroForensics and other agencies, we are making final decisions regarding the educational options for the students at Needham and Webb Elementary. FCS understands that parents and the community are eager to learn the results of the sampling, as well as next steps. That information will be shared as soon as possible.

Late Thursday afternoon, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management was at both schools, sampling sewer lines to determine if they are carrying any of the hazardous vapors that previous tests have found beneath the schools concrete floors.

School officials were so concerned, they closed both elementary schools before Spring Break. Instead of sitting in potentially contaminated classrooms, the nearly 700 students studied at home.

Tests revealed toxic vapors from the cancer-causing chemical TCE beneath the floors of Webb Elementary and Needham Elementary schools.

At Webb, concentrations were 12 times the safe screening level in one classroom and more than 3 times higher than safe screening levels in 2 other rooms.

Needham’s first round of testing found results just over the limit. The limit is 70 micrograms per cubic meter. The levels at Needham were 96.2 and 100.

Franklin Community Schools officials and testing company EnviroForensics conducted follow-up air testing to determine if and what concentrations chemical vapors are seeping from the floors and into the buildings.

Similar tests done in August before school started found only trace amounts of the industrial chemical.

Follow-up air tests were needed because they can vary with weather conditions, whether the building is occupied with doors opening and closing or empty and closed up.

Friday afternoon, Frankin schools said, "the data, including all 44 indoor air samples showing no detections, provides strong evidence the air in the schools is safe."

According to Franklin schools, EnviroForensics collected 20 indoor air samples paired with 10 additional follow-up sub-slab samples at Needham Elementary and 24 indoor air samples paired with seven additional follow-up sub-slab samples at Webb.

EnviroForensics also screened all accessible floor drains and collected air samples from five floor drains at each school.

The indoor samples included 8-hour samples on Saturday followed by 24-hour samples on Sunday into Monday.

The results of all 44 indoor air samples showed no detection of PCE, TCE, or any other chemical of concern at either Webb or Needham Elementary Schools.

The sub-slab sampling results were similar to the March 9th winter worst-case sampling event but were lower overall. All 10 sub-slab samples at Needham came back below IDEM screening levels. Five of the seven sub-slab samples at Webb came back below IDEM screening levels. One air sample collected from a floor drain within Webb detected a low level of PCE at a concentration significantly below IDEM screening levels. All other drains in both schools were non-detect. The 44 non-detect indoor air sample results give assurance that the air at Needham and Webb is safe.

Franklin schools says they are planning another monitoring event before the end of the school year to confirm the indoor air remains safe.

Franklin Community Schools says they look forward to welcoming students and staff back from Spring Break on Monday, April 1.