Northport school officials address fume concerns

Posted: Updated:

Northport school officials aimed to reassure parents at a Tuesday night meeting on fumes detected at Northport Middle School last month.

"If the air quality is showing volatile organic compounds that are toxic in high quantities where our children are learning, I'm afraid of them getting sick, our teachers getting sick," said Shawne Albero, a parent.

Earlier in the day, parents in the district received emails from the school district about a chemical contamination and cleanup in one of the classrooms there.

According to the letter, an earth science teacher smelled diesel fuel in room K-74 on April 24. The superintendent says students were immediately moved to another room. An investigation found that petroleum-based materials in a warehouse storeroom may have been the source of the odor.

Donna Rasizzi's 14-year-old son was in the classroom and noticed the odor.

"They gotta make sure our children are safe," Rasizzi said. "I'm worried, you know."

The superintendent said the district hired a company called Enviroscience to test the air quality. The test showed the presence of 24 hazardous substances, including four at slightly elevated levels under state Health Department guidelines. Those materials have been removed.

"This classroom sits on top of a warehouse where those chemicals were stored," said Robert Banzer, the superintendent. "But all of those were remediated. Those chemicals are no longer stored in the warehouse."

Still, parents were upset because they weren't notified about the chemical contamination until more than a month after the incident.

"In hindsight, it should have gone to parents sooner," Banzer said, but he also noted that Enviroscience and the state will conduct more testing in the coming weeks.

Some parents asked the district to have the entire school tested for hazards and to remove all students from the affected wing. The district said it would consider the requests and hold a future meeting with updates for parents.

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