Northport Middle School Environmental Information
During the 2019-2020 school year, the Board of Education engaged the services of P.W Grosser to conduct environmental testing after community concerns were raised. The conclusion reached by P.W Grosser after conducting extensive environmental testing for 6 months was that the building was safe for students and staff to occupy as highlighted in numerous media pieces:
Environmentalists: There's no reason to label Northport Middle School ‘unsafe to occupy’
Environmental report finds Northport Middle School is safe to open
Environmental firm: No reason to say Northport Middle 'unsafe to occupy'
The Board of Education of the Northport-East Northport Union Free School District (Client) retained P.W. Grosser Consulting, Inc. (PWGC) to perform a comprehensive investigation of potential environmental concerns at the Northport Middle School located at 11 Middleville Road in Northport, NY (the Site) in December of 2019.
The purpose for the investigation was to evaluate subsurface and indoor environmental conditions at the Middle School to determine if there were existing environmental conditions and exposure pathways that might result in adverse health effects for the students and staff occupying the school. From the outset, the District and PWGC coordinated and worked with several government agencies including the SCDHS, the New York State Department of Health, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The investigation included an extensive review of historical documents dating back to the selection of the school’s site and original construction, as well as a subsurface investigation consisting of soil, soil vapor, indoor air, and groundwater sampling and an industrial hygiene investigation consisting of visual inspection, infrared imaging, and indoor air sampling.
During PWGC’s preliminary investigation, PWGC found soil samples from two different septic systems on the southern and eastern sides of Middle School that contained elevated levels of benzene and required remediation. The District sent a letter on January 18th, 2020 out to the community informing them of PWGC’s findings and also highlighted that preliminary air testing indicated no observable detection of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) – which includes benzene – inside the building, or from the soil samples, as well as at the source of the septic tanks.
The following statement made in February 2020 by Brad Hutton, Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Public Health at New York Department of Health explained the initial finding of benzene by PWGC and whether there was reason for concern: “there was a detection of mercury in a cesspool that was connected to drains from old science rooms and also benzene in two septic tanks. Certainly, those are things that need to be addressed and cleaned up. Not only were the levels not ones that would be expected to present health effects but also, they were not in locations that would typically result in exposure to students. We certainly support the need to clean them up, but really to expect health affects you would need to have a reasonable pathway for exposure where students would be exposed to those contaminants.” https://abc7ny.com/5901303/
Nevertheless, in the best interest of the students and staff and in consideration of ongoing testing and remediation that was taking place, the District decided to close the building in January 2020 for the balance of the 2019/2020 school year.
Remediation work began in March with the Suffolk County Department of Health, as contaminated sludge and liquid were pumped out of septic tanks and leaching pools. There was no detection of mercury concentration in vapor samples collected. However, PWGC’s involvement did not stop once the UIC remediation was completed in March 2020; several inspections and additional remedial activities occurred well after March 2020 to December 2020.
In June 2020, PWGC’s 7,000-page final report was released to the community. The conclusion reached by P.W Grosser after conducting extensive environmental testing was that the building was safe for students and staff to occupy.
PWGC corresponded with representatives from the New York State Department of Health, Suffolk County Department of Health Services, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, including conference calls on May 29, 2020 and June 10, 2020 (state and local entities only for this follow-up call). Following the agencies’ review of a draft copy of the report and verbal comments, PWGC made minor modifications to the language of the text for clarity, added an executive summary section, added a recommendation for further investigation of soil, and other minor modifications that did not substantively change the document.
A draft copy of the Comprehensive Investigation Report was submitted to a subcommittee formed by the Board of Education on June 8, 2020. Subcommittee members submitted questions to PWGC on or by June 11, 2020. PWGC has answered these questions and provided a copy of the draft text, tables, and figures of the report in Appendix A of the NMS Comprehensive Investigation Report.
At a BOE meeting on June 25, 2020, PWGC spent several hours informing the district and the community of the findings of the report and the remediation conducted to date.
The Report found the school safe to occupy but made several recommendations:
• Relocating the bus depot off-site
• Ensuring contaminated air does not exist in the plumbing and sanitary systems
• Preparing a Soil and Materials Management Plan for the track field
• Reviewing safety instructions for art supplies and disposing of them if need be
• Performing proper maintenance and repairs to maintain indoor air quality
• Increasing humidity in the building
• Clearing organic materials from roof drains and having them inspected
• Redirecting surface runoff away from the L-wing hallway
• Performing routine maintenance on the HVAC systems, including duct cleaning
On December 11, 2020, P.W. Grosser Consulting, Inc. (PWGC) prepared a letter that summarized the District’s response to the recommendations of PWGC’s June 2020 Comprehensive Investigation Report. The December 11, 2020 letter confirmed that the District did implement and/or complete each of PWGC’s recommendations. The letter, which includes a table with each recommendation and the date of PWGC’s inspection verifying that the corrective action was taken or other applicable note, can be found below.
In an email dated January 25, 2021 the New York State Department of Health indicates that PWGC report “addresses past and more recent environmental concerns at the [Northport Middle] school.”
Due to the positive results of the PWGC comprehensive investigation, Moody’s Investment Service has upgraded the Northport-East Northport School District’s rating to an Aa1 on October 15, 2020. The Moody’s report highlighted the extensive environmental testing at the MS:
“The district chose to close the Middle School in February 2020 out of an abundance of caution after officials found elevated levels of benzene and mercury in the sludge of two cesspools outside the school building. The district did extensive testing, working with local, state and federal health officials to ensure that the building was safe. The school was reopened for the fiscal 2021 year after all studies came back that these dangerous chemicals were no threat to the students in the school building.”
Please find detailed information about the environmental testing of Northport Middle School including community letters, testing results, memos from independent professionals & organizations, and additional resource information on this page.
Comprehensive PWGC Reports:
- NMS Subcommittee page -includes Voluntary Occupant Health Survey
- PWGC Presentation to Board of Education 1/9/20
- School-Community Subcommittee to Board of Education Presentation 1/9/20
- Community Letter 11.25.19 - Subcommittee Recomendations/Important Updates
- School-Community Subcommittee to Board of Education Presentation from 11/7/19 BOE Meeting
- School-Community Subcommittee to Board of Education Presentation from 12/12/19
B. Information Regarding Air Quality Testing at NMS
- NMS Update 2/6/20
- NMS Update 1.18.20
- NMS Update 1.14.20
- NMS Update 1.9.20
- NMS Update 1.6.20
- NMS Update 12.19.19
- NMS Update 11.8.19
- NMS Update 11.4.19
- NMS Update 10.29.19
- NMS Update 10.24.19
- NMS IAQ Sampling Report
- NMS Update 10.23.19
- NMS Update 10.22.19
- NMS Update 10.16.19
- NMS Letter to Community.10.11.17
- Volatile Organic Compound Sampling 8.12.17
- Appendix To VOC Sampling Results CDC EPA Comparison K Wing 8.12.17
- NMS Letter to Community 8.11.17
- Northport Middle School Forum (video) - 8.9.17
- Volatile Organic Compound Sampling - K-Wing - 8.9.17
- Total Volatile Organic Compound Grab Sampling 8.4.17
- NMS Letter from Superintendent - July 25, 2017
- NMS Letter from Superintendent 5.25.17
- NMS Testing Results Table Phase I 4.27.17
- NMS Technical Report Phase I 4.27.17
- NMS Update 6.8.17
C. Information Regarding Carbon Monoxide Testing at NMS
- Indoor Air Quality Update Letter 12.19.17
- Carbon Monoxide Monitoring 12.15.17
- NMS CO Grab Sampling Report 11.8.17
D. Information Regarding Soil Testing at NMS
- NYSDOH Letter Chlordane 8.17.18
E. Information Regarding Water Testing at NMS
- Water Analysis Results 7.24.17 & 7.26.17
F. Information Regarding the Re-Opening of K-Wing at NMS
- Letter to NMS Community 9.4.18
- NYS Department of Health Confirmation email 9.4.18
- VOC Sampling Report 8.31.18
G. Information from Independent Professionals Regarding Health of NMS Building
- NMS Site Visit Memo from NYSUT 11.18.18
- PEHSU Letter BOE Meeting - 9.28.17
- NYSDOH Preliminary Review Email - 8.9.17
- SC Department of Health Services Email - 8.8.17
- NYS DOH Letter & Report 6.14.17
- MSDS for items listed in NYS DOH Letter
- Letter from NYS Department of Health to PWGC 1.25.21
- Moody's Credit Opinion 10.15.2020
- Potential Contingency Plan NMS - 1.15.20
- Letter to Congressman Suozzi 5.17.18
- Community Letter IBEAM 3.19.18
- NMS Environmental Presentation - 8.9.17
- NYSDOH Brochure
- NYS Department of Health Information Page on VOCs
- Tank Closure Application: Final Approval