From: Robina Suwol
Date: 05 Apr 2003
Remote Name: 18.104.22.168
By JONATHAN VAN FLEET, Telegraph Staff
NASHUA Construction at the south campus of Nashua High School was halted Tuesday after the School District found high levels of mercury in dust in the old gymnasium.
The discovery caused alarm because of the potential hazard it posed to construction workers, according to School District officials.
There was no risk to students because the gymnasium is on the other side of a wall that separates students from the construction zone, said Superintendent of Schools Joseph Giuliano.
To be sure, he said, the air in the building was tested and showed no signs of mercury.
Parents should not be alarmed, Giuliano said.
'If there was any concern for safety, we'd shut down the project, he said.It's safe.'
Crews will resume construction today, Giuliano added.
This year, sophomores attend classes in the old portion of the school while construction crews renovate the other half. At the start of the next school year, a new group of sophomores will attend classes in the renovated portion of the school. A new athletic complex has already been completed.
Juniors and seniors attend the new north campus of Nashua High School off Broad Street.
As a result of the discovery at the south school, the old gymnasium will be sealed off from the rest of the construction site until the mercury can be removed, said Mark Conrad, the School District's business administrator.
The air will be monitored in the construction area of the building as well as the student portion for the remainder of the school year, Giuliano said.
The School District also sent a letter to parents on Tuesday informing them of the discovery.
Mercury was discovered in the glue of the gymnasium's original floor in September. That discovery dramatically altered the construction schedule at the school. Construction crews were forced to work on other areas of the building rather than renovate the gymnasium into what will be the school's library. As a result, the library will not be available for
most or all of next school year.
The School District had already decided to wait until summer to get rid of the mercury in the floor so no students will be in the building.
The cost of removing the mercury from the floor was estimated at about $140,000, Conrad said. The discovery of the dust will mean more cost.
Besides the mercury, there have been discoveries of asbestos-laden tiles and some lead paint around steel beams that have bumped up the chemical removal costs.
The abatement portion of the project is up to $2.5 million from its original amount of $900,000, Conrad said. Savings on other portions of the construction have kept the $143 million bottom line intact, he said.
The School District has no idea how the mercury-laden dust got on the rafters or how long it has been there. It's possible the dust has been there since the gymnasium was constructed in 1975. It could also have settled there during the recent construction process, said Jeanette Kotopoulis, assistant director of plant operations for the district.
Mercury in the dust on the rafters was measured at 40 milligrams per kilogram. Closer to the ground, the mercury compound was measured at 1 to 2 milligrams per kilogram, said Kotopoulis.