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Garfield NJ finds high levels of mercury in high school gymnasium floor

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GARFIELD – The school district has ordered a nearly $ 400,000 renovation of one of Garfield High School’s two gymnasiums, after an inspection confirmed mercury levels exceeding safety standards.

The project, which will phase out mercury-laden rubber flooring, is expected to start this week and is expected to be completed by the start of the school year, business administrator Giovanni Cusmano said in an interview.

Cusmano said the district retained the services of AHERA Consultants to verify the presence of asbestos and mercury in the flooring.

“As the district operates on a distance learning basis, I thought it would be a good idea to make various improvements throughout the process,” he said this week. The plans covered both the high school’s “old gymnasium”, constructed during the building’s initial construction, and the new gymnasium added in the mid-1980s.

The old gymnasium with its traditional hardwood floor was redone and refurbished by contractor Classic Sports Floors at the end of last year. But when the time came for the new gym, Cusmano learned that testing for mercury would be needed.

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The hard rubber floors of gymnasiums installed in schools and universities in the United States from 1960 to 1990 contained mercury, Classic Sports Floors said, and there was a strong possibility that the new gymnasium floor was also contaminated.

Flooring can emit mercury vapors, according to reports cited by the New Jersey School Boards Association.

Exposure to mercury can impact the brain and central nervous system with symptoms such as tingling in the extremities, weakened limbs, and impaired motor control. The risk is higher in young children, whose neurological systems are still developing.

Samples were taken on March 31 by a certified indoor environmental consultant and a certified asbestos building inspector. Although no asbestos was detected, mercury was present above state recommended levels.

Of three samples taken, two gave readings of 190 parts per million while the third, taken in the corner near the equipment room, gave a reading of 320 ppm.

“Rubber floors with a rubber content of less than 20 ppm are unlikely to cause vapors to reach levels of concern. When floors exceed 20 ppm, vapor concentrations can approach or exceed levels of concern under certain circumstances, ”according to the consultant’s report.

In May, when the results returned, Cusmano began looking for companies to remove and replace the gym floor. To completely clean up the area, the neighborhood also had to replace the gymnasium bleachers.

The school board approved the $ 398,390 project in July and the bleachers were immediately removed. Work is expected to begin on the ground Thursday and should be completed before the school reopens in September.

Katie Sobko is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @katesobko

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