Air testing finds no evidence of harmful trichloroethylene near West Oakland high school

Dozens of air samples taken Saturday at more than 50 spots throughout the McClymonds High School campus school buildings showed no evidence of airborne trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent, in the air, a state environmental officer said. That comes two days after the halocarbon chemical compound was found in the groundwater near the school, at 2607 Myrtle St. in West Oakland.

State and Alameda County experts say the trichloroethylene, or TCE, in the groundwater came from some still-undetermined location near the McClymonds campus. There are several known locations in the neighborhood where TCE is an issue.

“There is no indication of TCE in any of the areas we have tested so far,” said Cheryl Prowell, a senior hazardous substances engineer with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, in a statement released by the Oakland Unified School District. Prowell added that they didn’t expect to see TCE in the air on campus. “Based on the groundwater results, high concentrations in indoor air would be unlikely but we wanted to use caution and check.”

The test samples Saturday were collected using large glass syringes, and were fed into a specialized piece of equipment that measures TCE levels in air and shows results within minutes. “We trust this data, but we view it as screening data,” Prowell said. “We really want to see the data from the analytical laboratory before we say with certainty, because the analytical laboratory is a certified method.”

School district officials said the air testing is expected to continue at least through this coming week. OUSD officials hope McClymonds’ 350 students will be back in class Tuesday or Wednesday, at a location (or more than one) yet to be determined.

UPDATE:

A pair of meetings are scheduled for Monday to update the McClymonds High School community on the situation at the temporarily closed Oakland campus.

The campus has been closed since the discovery Thursday of the cancer-causing chemical trichloroethylene in the groundwater at the school, located at 2607 Myrtle St. in West Oakland.

To accommodate differing schedules, the community meetings are scheduled at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday in the library at West Oakland Middle School, 991 14th St. The meetings will cover the temporary closure, testing, and the next steps that will be taken, the district said in an announcement.

District officials note that contamination is confined to groundwater and is not found in drinking water at the school. Initial testing of air samples at the campus was conducted Saturday and district officials said the air testing is expected to continue at least through this coming week.

OUSD officials hope McClymonds’ 350 students will be back in class Tuesday or Wednesday, at a location (or more than one) yet to be determined. The district is also posting updates online at ousd.org/mcclymondstce.

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