FORT COVINGTON - The Salmon River Central School Board of Education voted 6-0-1 to declare an emergency water and soil remediation project because of contamination from acetone.
The sole abstention was new board member Christopher Nye, who said he had not been brought up to speed on the situation.
Superintendent of Schools Jane Collins said that during the April break March Associates will undertake a $600,000 project to remediate soil underneath the schools 500 wing and also replace the carbon filtration system. The water is currently drinkable, Ms. Collins said, but the district is providing bottled drinking water until the project is finished as a safeguard.
The Salmon River superintendent added that a number of wells on surrounding properties have been tested and all are safe. She said she did not know the number or the radius around the school that were tested.
Ms. Collins said she is unsure exactly how the acetone got into the water, but she did confirm that in November 2010 a quantity of ethanol leaked from the geothermal heating and cooling system. She said that ethanol degenerates into several by-products, one of which is acetone.
Potential health hazards of exposure to high levels of acetone can include nervous system toxicity, according to the state Department of Health. Side effects can include headaches, light-headedness, dizziness, unsteadiness and confusion.
Ms. Collins offered no details as to what the next step toward acetone remediation will be, but she did say the current step is a temporary solution. We will try this and we will see how it works, she said.
The Salmon River school superintendent said there was no acetone detected in Salmon Rivers water until recently. Following the leak in November 2010, the district contracted with Atlantic Testing Laboratories for monthly water analysis and the results came back clean until recently.
The neighboring St. Lawrence Central School District has had issues with its water quality in recent months with glycol contamination.