When I was in elementary school, I went to a really old school. It was OK, but not new. A lot of neighborhoods in my town had newer schools and I always thought it would be cool to go to one. Mine was fine, but a new one looked like it would be cool. Everything pretty and clean. But I just saw this in the paper and I am glad I went where I did. NO WAY would I go to a school like this? What were they thinking when they decided to build it on the site of a chemical company? Who is checking that it is safe? Who is double-checking? And why didn’t they test the water before now? Is this going to be one of those places where half the kids have cancer in 10 years and then they still won’t shut it?

State says school is safe but needs tests before opening

School is planned to open on the site of a former chemical company

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

State officials say that an elementary school opening on the site of a former chemical company is safe but that the groundwater on the property needs to be tested before the school opens in the Leander district next year.

Officials with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said the tests are necessary to determine whether harmful vapors found at the 40-acre site had reached the water, 70 to 80 feet below.
The water would not pose a threat to people at the school if vapors are found, but it could affect karsts and creatures that live in the water, said Alan Batcheller, director of the commission’s remediation division.

He said the tests are an environmental issue, not a “health effects issue.”

“Based on everything we’ve looked at, and Leander ISD has collected a lot of information … there are no reasons to believe that the building cannot be converted to a school,” he said.

The commission has been reviewing the site for months and issued its final report to the district and a roomful of parents during a town hall meeting Monday night.

“They agree we may open the school and it’s a safe place for students and teachers,” district spokesman Bill Britcher said.

The findings came as a relief to most parents, some of whom raised concerns about harmful chemicals, such as mercury, found on the site.

“There really were no surprises,” said Kelli Merchant, the school’s Parent Teacher Association president. “I’m just ready to put this all to rest and move forward.”

Last month, the panel ranked the site a “moderate to high potential hazard.”

Until 2003, the chemical company Sasol North America Inc. operated a research and development facility on the site, using chemicals to produce products such as shampoos and soaps.

The commission recommended that the district build a well on the site to test the ground water and show whether the vapors are naturally occurring or man-made, Batcheller said.

The recommendations add to ones made by Weston Solutions, an environmental engineering firm hired by the district to test the site.

In May, the firm said the site was safe but recommended testing during the first year Grandview Hills Elementary is open.

The district will meet with the commission and Weston Solutions to determine the next step, Superintendent Tom Glenn said.

mmixon@statesman.com, 512- 246-0043

Here is a TV report on the same school.