Digging Deeper: Air, water and soil testing at Byrd Learning Center results reveal no impact from nearby waste retention pond

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) – School leaders shared the results of an investigation into the environmental hazards potentially impacting a school in Aiken County.

During a town hall meeting, parents questioned the conditions of the air, water and soil at the Byrd Adult Learning Center, due to its proximity to a waste retention pond. That prompted school leaders to immediately launch an environmental study of the property.

For months, school leaders have been looking for cost-efficient ways to accommodate students in Aiken County and decided to convert the adult learning facility back to its former use as an elementary school.

The location of the property is just 1,800 feet from a waste holding pond, which raised concerns about the environment.

“I do drink out of the fountains and I haven’t gotten any germs yet so,” said B.L.C. student Kimberly Brooks.

The district immediately began an environmental study that tested the air, water and soil quality of the property.

However, Director of Adult Education Pat Keating says when the HVAC system and pipes were replaced, within the last 10 years, some tests were conducted.

“So I was very sure that this was a safe facility for everyone,” Keating told WJBF NewsChannel 6.

The study found there were no issues with the indoor air quality.

District results for air quality testing: 

An air quality assessment was conducted in November at Byrd Learning Center. The results of that assessment found no visual evidence of moisture damage or fungal growth, and no indicators of indoor air quality concerns. Sample analyses indicated one area of the facility with an elevated spore count, which the company recommended be addressed with a general cleaning of the space with an anti-bacterial detergent.

The 4 soil samples found normal levels of metals common to the area.

District results for soil quality testing: 

Soil samples were collected in November from four areas at the perimeter of the Byrd Learning Center campus. These samples were analyzed for seven metals, nitrates and 49 volatile organic compounds. Laboratory analysis for nitrates showed no detection (ND) and analysis of all 49 volatile organic compounds showed no detection (ND). Laboratory analysis of metals found in the soil samples reflected only those of a general background condition, or representing levels that may be found anywhere in our geographic area.

The water quality tests indicated that the drinking water standards were well above those set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

District results for water quality testing: 

Eleven water samples were collected in December from a variety of sources covering the entire Byrd Learning Center campus. These samples were tested for copper and lead contaminants, with results matched against Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for drinking water. A laboratory analysis showed all samples as testing well below EPA actionable levels.

Records show in 2000, the district did hire a company to remove some tiles containing asbestos.

According to District records, Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (ADHERA) tests conducted at Byrd Learning Center in 1998 recommended when feasible the removal of certain areas of floor tiles with Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACM). Environmental Consulting Services, Inc. completed this project June 19, 2000, at Byrd Learning Center, removing all suspect materials.

To learn more about asbestos click here. 

Still, before it begins serving nearly 400 elementary school students school leaders say they’re looking at revamping the inside of the building.

“What do the classes inside look like? Do they need some work? Some repairs?” Asked NewsChannel 6’s Stefany Bornman.

“Well actually right now it’s cold and stuff, but yes I would suggest maybe little repairs.” Brooks said.

Keating says those upgrades inside the building could include a new cafeteria, windows, entrance and exit doors and additional parking.

Plans call for the building to reopen as an elementary school in August 2019.

The Adult Learning Center is being relocated to a building near Aiken Technical College.

To read the comprehensive air, water and soil test click here. 

Count on WJBF NewsChannel 6 to bring you the latest on this developing story. 

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