School system chooses firm to test air and soil at Hanes, Lowrance schools

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During a special session of the school board Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, Will Service, an environmental toxicologist at Mid Atlantic Environmental Services, Inc. explains the science of vapor intrution and how his company will test for harmful vapors at Hanes and Lowrance middle schools. Behind him is assistant superitendent for operations Darrell Walker. (Walt Unks/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A new player in the drama unfolding at the campus of Hanes and Lowrance middle schools was introduced Tuesday night: Mid-Atlantic Associates, Inc., an environmental and engineering consulting firm that will conduct air quality and soil vapor tests in and around the schools, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools hired Mid-Atlantic after Superintendent Beverly Emory pledged to find an outside, independent expert to conduct “immediate and thorough” air-quality tests in the schools. The tests come in response to parents who question the safety of the buildings. A plume of groundwater contaminated with hazardous waste lies about 35 feet to 80 feet below certain sections of campus, with the worst concentrations about 150 feet east of Hanes. Toxins in the groundwater can turn into a vapor and seep into buildings.

The initial $7,500 contract with Mid-Atlantic tasks the firm with reviewing previous data collected at the site, presenting a general overview of vapor intrusion and assessment methods to the Board of Education, assessing the current condition of the buildings and developing a vapor intrusion sampling plan. The execution of that plan — expected to be delivered by Feb. 9 — will require a second contract. At a meeting with Forsyth County commissioners Thursday, Emory said that contract could be between $25,000 and $60,000, depending on the extent of testing and expediency of the process.

Darrell Walker, assistant superintendent of operations, said the district looked at three or four organizations. The district ultimately chose Mid-Atlantic, he said, because of its expertise in vapor intrusion, ability to do both soil and air sampling, and an impressive list of previous clients.

Read full story: The Winston-Salem Journal