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NC State Plans Tests On Toxic PCBs For Building Projects

You are currently viewing NC State Plans Tests On Toxic PCBs For Building Projects
  • Post category:News

Almost five months ago, NC State University closed Poe Hall because tests showed dangerous chemicals were present. Now, as the university continues tests and a federal health review, they’re thinking about new rules for testing buildings in the future. Chancellor Randy Woodson spoke with The News & Observer about these changes. He wants the university to follow new federal rules about PCBs, chemicals found in Poe Hall, when testing buildings for renovations or construction.

Before starting work in a building, NC State already checks for things like asbestos and lead. Now, Woodson wants them to include PCB testing too. PCBs are harmful chemicals that can cause health problems. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made new rules in February to help clean up PCBs faster and cheaper while still keeping people safe.

The trouble at Poe Hall began during a renovation project last August. People noticed dust and debris and worried about asbestos and other chemicals. The university tested and found acceptable levels of asbestos and heavy metals. But concerns grew about the building’s HVAC system, which cools the internet equipment room. More tests revealed PCBs in November, leading to the building’s closure for a full environmental assessment.

Woodson explained that they’ve been testing for PCBs outside buildings for years, especially in caulking around windows. But now they need to figure out how to test inside buildings too.

The new guidelines from the EPA will help shape these testing protocols. Woodson said they’re learning from the testing at Poe Hall and might have new guidelines by late April.

The university is also waiting for a health evaluation from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). PCB exposure can harm health, so NIOSH is checking if people in Poe Hall were at risk. This evaluation paused once for more testing and may provide more insights into the situation.

Woodson understands people’s worries about their health but insists on gathering all necessary information before taking further action. Meanwhile, they’re figuring out what to do with Poe Hall once testing is complete. Some materials tested show high PCB levels, which might mean costly cleanup or even tearing down the building. Woodson said they’ll follow EPA guidelines but admitted both options are expensive.

State legislators are watching closely, knowing the university is spending money on testing and temporary office space for displaced staff. Woodson said demolishing Poe Hall would be tough since it’s vital for the university, but they’re waiting for the data before deciding.

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