The FMC Corp. and federal and state agencies plan to launch an investigation this winter to determine whether toxic vapors are entering Royalton-Hartland's secondary schools and posing a possible health threat to students.
Parents have been concerned about the possibility since last winter when school Superintendent Paul J. Bona Jr. shut down a high school classroom after school officials noticed a strong odor there. The odor disappeared and its source never discovered.
Parents and officials fear volatile compounds such as the solvent trichloroethene are migrating from the adjacent FMC pesticide plant in the ground water, turning into a gas and percolating up through the soil into the schools.
Officials from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state departments of Environmental Conservation and Health said there was no evidence to show there is a problem, but said there is enough information available concerning migrating solvents from the FMC plant to investigate and be sure.
Addressing the Royalton-Hartland School Board and at least 40 residents at a special meeting Wednesday, EPA's Walter Mugdan said FMC has agreed to work on the matter by coming up with a plan and conducting air testing. Mugdan is director of the EPA's Division on Environmental Planning and Protection.
"That's going to involve additional ground water samples, testing the indoor air supply in the schools and sampling subslab [air] below the school's foundations and in its crawl spaces," Mugdan said.
"We are doing this because we know there are contaminants in the ground water that could give rise to a vapor intrusion problem. We want to make sure that if there is a problem -- and we don't know if there is -- we want to cure it as quickly as possible, possibly this summer before school reopens in the fall."
He said FMC is working with the agencies and will do the sampling during the current heating season, when the schools' doors and windows are closed, so it will be easier to detect any vapors.