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No TCE yet found in Oakland school air samples, testing continues into week

Dozens of air samples taken Saturday at more than 50 spots throughout the McClymonds High School campus school buildings showed no evidence of airborne trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent, in the air, a state environmental officer said.

That comes two days after the halocarbon chemical compound was found in the groundwater near the school, at 2607 Myrtle St. in West Oakland.

State and Alameda County experts say the trichloroethylene, or TCE, in the groundwater came from some still-undetermined location near the McClymonds campus. There are several known locations in the neighborhood where TCE is an issue.

Daniel Olsen/Wikimedia Commons McClymonds High School in Oakland, Calif. closed Thursday, February 20, 2020 after trichloroethylene was detected in the school’s groundwater.

In a statement released by the Oakland Unified School District, Cheryl Prowell, a senior hazardous substances engineer with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, said:

“There is no indication of TCE in any of the areas we have tested so far.”

Adding that they didn’t expect to see TCE in the air on campus, Prowell said:

“Based on the groundwater results, high concentrations in indoor air would be unlikely but we wanted to use caution and check.”

The test samples Saturday were collected using large glass syringes, and were fed into a specialized piece of equipment that measures TCE levels in air and shows results within minutes.

Oakland Unified School District This specialized piece of equipment tests air samples for trichloroethylene (TCE) within minutes. It showed zero-percent levels of TCE at every location tested at McClymonds High School in Oakland, Calif. on Saturday, February 22, 2020.

Prowell said:

“We trust this data, but we view it as screening data.”

“We really want to see the data from the analytical laboratory before we say with certainty, because the analytical laboratory is a certified method.”

School district officials said the air testing is expected to continue at least through this coming week. OUSD officials hope McClymonds’ 350 students will be back in class Tuesday or Wednesday, at a location (or more than one) yet to be determined.

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