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Weston Schools Test for Toxic Chemicals

A simple project to replace doors and windows at Weston Middle School and Weston High School has turned into a test for polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in the caulking, soils and bricks in the buildings.

"PCBs were prevalent during the time the buildings were built," Jo-Ann Keating, Weston school's director of finance and operations, told the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and Board of Education on Thursday night. PCB is a man-made organic chemical manufactured from 1929 to 1979, when it was banned, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's website .

Testing has been concluded at the schools, and a report should be completed soon. Then the town can prepare an abatement plan before getting a cost for the project, Keating said. She received a letter from an engineer that says there are no health concerns associated with the PCBs and the only concern is the disposal of the chemical. However, the EPA's website says PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in animals . If the caulking is intact, exposure to PCBs is not likely to have health effects, according to the EPA.

The doors and windows that need to be replaced are in disrepair and are not energy efficient, said Keating. Drawings for new windows were completed last summer, and the work was to begin this summer. It is expected to be delayed until next summer, when the town will assess whether it needs additional funds for the project.

The cost of the abatement will depend on the amount of material found in the substances, said Keating. If brick has to be removed, this would be a huge cost increase, First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said Thursday.

Keating said PCBs were common in buildings from the 1950s to the 1970s and more than 55 percent of all public buildings contain it.

Are you worried about PCBs at the schools? Leave your comments below.

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