Dear BAM Community,
I’m writing to share some important information regarding environmental testing at Berkeley Arts Magnet, and to invite you to a school community meeting:
Tuesday, March 10 at 6:00 p.m. at Berkeley Arts Magnet School, 2015 Virginia Street, Berkeley, CA 94709, in the BAM Library.
BUSD Executive Director of Facilities John Calise will host the meeting and will explain the testing, which has to do with concerns about air quality and the contamination of soils at Virginia Cleaners, near BAM.
The testing was conducted after Principal Molina and I received an email from an attorney from Greenfire Law, PC that included a 135 page report containing information regarding the reported finding of the chemical compounds known as Trichloroethylene (“TCE”) and Perchloroethylene (“PCE”) and in soil vapor samples taken near BAM at the site of Virginia Cleaners, at 1650 Shattuck Avenue. These chemicals were once commonly found in dry cleaning solutions.
Upon reading the report, I convened an emergency meeting on March 2nd with Executive Director of Facilities John Calise and David Solis, Principal Engineer of Shoreline Environmental Resources, who is the District’s Environmental Consultant, and BUSD Public Information Officer Trish McDermott. After reviewing the report with Mr. Solis, I ordered immediate airborne field screening and sample testing at BAM, which occurred on Wednesday evening, March 4.
The findings of the test of air quality at BAM are “no initial potential exposures by TCE/PCE were identified by the employed methodology during the assessment activities.” That means the airborne field screening at the school did not detect the chemical of concern in the samples collected. The results of the airborne field screening and sample testing are attached to this email.
On Tuesday, March 10, at 6:00 p.m., BUSD Staff and BUSD Environmental Consultant David Solis will share the key findings of the report, the airborne field screening and sample testing.
Confirmation sampling and laboratory testing are being completed at an independent laboratory; we expect to receive confirmation of the preliminary field screening results by March 17.
BUSD has created a dedicated webpage at www.berkeleyschools.net/bamreport where you will find the original report, the airborne field screening and sample testing report, and ongoing updates.
Berkeley Unified School District
AIRBORNE FIELD SCREENING RESULTS – Berkeley Arts Magnet (BAM) – March 4, 2020
Testing Total Airborne Volatile Organic Compounds at BAM
On Wednesday, March 4, field screening for overall mass airborne Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) was completed using a GasTec Photoionization Detector (PID). Typical photoionization detectors measure volatile organic compounds and other gases in concentrations from sub parts per billion to 10,000 parts per million (ppm). PIDs produce instantaneous readings, operate continuously, and are commonly used as detectors for gas chromatography or as hand‐held portable instruments. Their primary use is for monitoring possible worker exposure to VOCs such as solvents, fuels, degreasers, plastics & their precursors, heat transfer fluids, lubricants, etc. during manufacturing processes and waste handling.
All hallways, rooms, and closets (including the basement) were surveyed using the PID.
The initial field screening of total VOC concentrations indicated <.5 parts per million in the atmospheric indoor air of the school. The trace levels of VOCs found could be indicative of the presence of aromatic cleaners being used to clean and disinfect the school at the time of the assessment.
Testing for Airborne TCE/PCE at BAM
Field screening for VOC content, specifically TCE/PCE was also conducted using a GasTec piston pump and colorimetric detector sampling tubes. Colorimetric detector tubes are graduated glass tubes filled with chemical reagents that produce a color change when exposed to the chemical in question. They are typically used with hand pumps that draw a sample of air into the tube. The tubes are sealed at both ends until they are ready to use for sampling. Prior to use, the end of the tube is broken off at each end and the tube is inserted into the pump. As the sampled air works its way up the tube, it reacts with the reagent inside of it, producing a color change. If TCE/PCE is present, the media inside the tube would change color from yellow to a reddish purple to reflect the presence and concentration of the chemical in the air. The length of the color change is proportional to the concentration of the substance being tested. The point where the reaction stops is read off against graduated markings on the tube. The concept is similar to other colorimetric methods such as pH paper for measuring acids and bases and bleaching of dyes to determine ozone or chlorine levels in water or air.
A total of 12 samples were collected from the indoor air of the school as follows: Office, Basement, Library, Multipurpose Room, Hallway, and Classrooms P‐1, P‐3, P‐5, 109, 111, 116, and 204. Additionally, 1 sample was collected outside of the school near the portables.
The initial field screening of airborne TCE/PCE using the colorimetric tubes indicated no detections of the chemical of concern in any of the samples collected.