Mynderse Academy - Earth Science Classroom Odor Issue 9/26/19

Mynderse Academy- Earth Science Classroom Odor Issue 9/26/19

We had an odor issue in the high school on Thursday, September 26, 2019 that made some students and the teacher  feel ill. All of the students who showed any signs of not feeling well were in the Advanced Earth Science class. These were 8th grade students. The students who showed symptoms were all sitting near an open window and the unit ventilation system, which pulls air into the room from outside. All students were removed immediately from that classroom and no classes were held in that room for the remainder of the day.

I apologize for not communicating this information out on Thursday, but we were having problems with our automated messaging system and couldn’t get a mass message out via phone, email or the District app on Thursday. I did however post the information above on the district website.

On Friday, September 27, 2019, we started the day by not allowing classes in the room until the Health and Safety Officer from Genesee Valley BOCES could come with a device to check the air quality. She confirmed no air quality issues in the building. She did however detect some elevated readings at the manhole outside the middle school, which is a short distance from the windows of the high school science classroom.

We believe that the source of the odor and elevated readings came from the work being done on the town sewer lines. We immediately contacted the town who put us in touch with the head project engineer. We had a meeting that included myself, other district representatives, the Health & Safety Officer from Genesee Valley BOCES, the project engineer and the Town Supervisor. From this meeting, we learned of a chemical being used in the pipe lining process that can put off a strong odor and bother some people who are more sensitive to the smell. The engineer firm also updated us on the steps they will be taking to minimize future air quality issues.

Please see the information below from the engineering firm (Barton & Longuidice) outlining more details about the process, products they are using and the steps they will be taking to prevent any further issues in regards to air quality within the proximity of our schools.

Thank you,

Jeramy Clingerman

Superintendent of Schools

 

Barton & Longuidice

The Town of Seneca Falls is currently performing a sanitary sewer rehabilitation project.  The initial phase of the work involves a process called Cured-In-Place Pipeline (CIPP) rehabilitation.   CIPP lining  has been used for more than 45 years in the industry to provide a cost effective “trenchless” alternative to traditional excavation and replacement of sewer pipes.   A typical 400-foot section of deteriorated gravity sewer pipe can be effectively rehabilitated in a few hours vs. what may otherwise require a few weeks to excavate, replace, and restore.  The CIPP process currently being used in our project involves the use of a polyester and vinyl ester resins impregnated in a felt “liner” that is inserted into the pipe using high pressure air and subsequently cured (hardened) by injecting steam into the pipe.  Styrene, a volatile organic compound, is mixed with the resin as a necessary component to enable the resin to fully cure (harden) in place. 

The Town initiated CIPP rehabilitation work in late August in various locations across the former Village. Sections of pipe selected for CIPP rehabilitation are those that are in poor structural condition but can be effectively rehabilitated using the trenchless liner.  The CIPP work is extremely specialized and only performed by highly qualified and experienced contractors.  The application and curing of the liner system resin results in odors.   Typically, odors are localized to the adjacent manholes but may also be noted inside the adjacent residences if adequate sewer lateral traps/vents are not in place.  

In advance of lining any sewer, a written notification is provided to area homeowners connected to the sewer to be lined, advising them of what they may notice during this work.  While the entire process requires between 4 and 6 hours, the odors typically occur within an approximate 3 hour period during which the resin is applied and cured in the pipeline.  The extent and duration of odors will vary at each site and is heavily influenced by local weather conditions such as temperature, precipitation, air pressure and wind speed.

It should be noted that styrene is a regulated chemical with associated exposure levels (Threshold Limit Values) that have been developed to provide worker protection.  As styrene is widely used in this work, several studies regarding the effects of styrene on sewer lining employees and communities have been developed. The results of these studies indicate that, while odors are a common occurrence, the levels of styrene present are below exposure guidelines and do not present a long-term health risk. Typically, styrene can be detected at a concentration approximately 50 times lower than what is considered a safe exposure level.  Although concentrations of styrene are below exposure guidelines for workers, individuals have different sensitivities to these odors.  Because styrene odor can be detected at such low concentrations (0.4 to 0.75ppm, depending on one’s ability to detect odors), styrene’s odor can be considered a nuisance to those not used to working around it.

Most of the styrene released using the steam cure method is in the vapor form, principally from the steam exhaust.  The styrene concentration of the vapor rapidly dissipates as it moves away from the discharge point (distance) and also as it cools (temperature).    Also, higher levels of styrene are found in conjunction with heat, so as the air cools, the styrene level decreases. 

 

On September 26, 2019, the Town’s CIPP lining Contractor, Green Mountain Pipeline Services, was performing CIPP on Boston Avenue, which is located several hundred feet south of the Middle School.  Weather conditions during that time were such that there was little breeze or air movement.  The CIPP work was performed as specified, but, due to local weather conditions, the odors were noted to be more prevalent in Town due to lack of dissipation.  After completion of the work, the Contractor and Town’s engineer were notified that several children and a teacher in a single classroom at the High School became ill (headaches and nausea). 

During investigation of this matter, representatives from the school, including the schools’ safety consultant, the Town engineer, and Contractor evaluated the conditions that may have caused this incident.  We believe that a combination of weather conditions (no wind, high pressure) resulted in increased odors from the CIPP process.  Additionally, the windows in that particular classroom were open during this timeframe.  While odors were noted, it was some time after that students and teachers developed symptoms.  As noted above, the detection of these odors can be concerning and each individual will have different sensitivity to the detection of styrene. 

Moving forward some additional CIPP work is required near the school.  Representatives from the Town, School District, Engineer, and Contractor have developed the following action plan to enhance communications and minimize the risk for future incidents:

  • The School district will receive all neighborhood notifications handed out for the remaining CIPP work.
  • Any CIPP work to be performed within 1,000 feet of any school will be performed during the morning shift, when students are more likely to be inside. CIPP lining performed during afternoon/evening hours would potentially expose students who are outside.
  • CIPP work will not be performed at night as this will unnecessarily disrupt nearby residents.
  • The Contractor will monitor weather conditions and avoid CIPP during similar “stagnant” ambient air conditions.
  • The School will be contacted at application of resin and notified when resin curing is complete. During this time, it is recommended that classroom windows be closed.
  • Air quality monitoring along the school grounds will be performed during these events.
  • Seal all manhole covers in the vicinity of the school to prevent any odor from escaping.

The next round of CIPP work will be completed within the next two weeks.  There are a few remaining locations that will be within 1,000 ft. of the school during this stage.  In the future, it should be noted that additional lining work may be required in other areas adjacent to the school.  Should this occur, the above precautions will be taken.  

The Town and School District take these concerns seriously and have worked diligently with the town’s engineer and Contractor to develop this action plan.