Phoenixville Area School District Superintendent Dr. Alan Fegley urged “abundant caution” when it comes to possible contamination on the existing East Pikeland Elementary School site.
The school, located at West Seven Stars and Hares Hill roads, is the subject of a lengthy zoning hearing and land development process to pursue a possible expansion on the site. At a planning commission meeting earlier this month, residents near the site expressed concerns about a possible pesticide contamination at the location.
In 1989, wells in the area tested positive for high levels of dieldrin, an insecticide banned in 1987 and targeted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Due to dieldrin concerns in 1990, students were given bottled water, Fegley told the school board at Thursday’s business meeting. The source of the contamination was never discovered.
The planning commission told residents that they were not in the right venue to make environmental complaints but said the matter would be forwarded on to the East Pikeland Environmental Advisory Council. At Thursday’s school board meeting, Fegley said that even without a recommendation from that council, the district will proceed with getting bids for a geophysical survey.
Fegley showed the board a January 2010 report that he reviewed with the district’s legal counsel. He recommended that the geophysical survey be done to make sure that the source of the contamination is not on the district’s property.
Most likely, the source was two nearby dumps, according to Stan Johnson, executive director of operations, but just to be sure the district will move forward with bids for the geophysical survey.
“There’s not been a finding of where exactly this source is,” Fegley said.
The well on the school site, which has not been used since the district switched over to PA American public water in 1990, will also be tested for dieldrin contamination, he said.
“We should probably just be abundantly cautious,” Fegley said.
Board Member Kenneth Butera asked if the district would test the well first and then asked whether or not the district would proceed with the geophysical survey if no contamination was found. Board Member Daniel Cushing said that was unlikely.
“Don’t make the assumption [the dieldrin] is not there,” Cushing said. “It will be there.”
Cushing explained that dieldrin is not a new issue for the site and added that the topic was vetted publicly in the past with neighbors who had contaminated wells. Residents were told to proceed with testing their own water.
According to Johnson, as of Jan. 24 the district had put out requests to four companies, and he said two proposals were received and they include both the well testing and the geophysical study. Johnson said administrators had a positive response from the other two companies and he expects they’ll put proposals in as well. The cost of the study and well water testing combined is not expected to exceed $10,000, he added.
The next action for the planned expansion of the elementary school will be the continuation of a zoning hearing on six relief requests by the school district. That will continue Feb. 8 in East Pikeland Township.