Home News and Features Early PCB Tests Show Safe Local Schools High Levels in One...

Early PCB Tests Show Safe Local Schools
High Levels in One Room at Twinfield

Several local schools have been tested for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in recent months; three in Montpelier and Barre show no concerning levels, but one room at Twinfield Union tested three times higher than “Vermont school action levels” according to a letter sent to the school in February 2023.

Polychlorinated biphenyls are human-made chemicals that were used in building materials and electrical equipment before 1980. Schools renovated or built before 1980 are more likely to have PCBs in their building materials, typically caulk and fluorescent light ballasts, according to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources website. A 2021 law required the state to test the indoor air for PCBs in all schools built or renovated before 1980 by July 2024. It also required remediation if levels are found to be high. Since then lawmakers have paused the program and changed some of the parameters around who pays for remediation.

Testing got started, in any case, and results are in for a few local schools. Union Elementary School and Main Street Middle School in Montpelier were tested in March, and showed no concerning levels of PCBs in any of the rooms tested, according to a letter to the schools from the Vermont Department of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation. 

 The Montessori School of Central Vermont in Barre, tested in October 2022, also had no concerning levels, according to its letter from the state.

Not all schools in Vermont have been tested as yet.

At Twinfield Union School, just one room — the “air handler attic” — tested at levels requiring action. In a letter to the school from the state, one recommendation was to keep students out of that room while the school hires a consultant to address the issue.

In the meantime, a bill is working its way through the state legislature to pause PCB testing in schools barely a year after it started, extend the testing deadline to 2027, and require the state to pay for the cost of remediating schools found to have PCB levels that exceed state standards.