Expert: Mercury in Wall High School gym flooring doesn’t pose risk

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Wall High School FILE PHOTO

WALL TOWNSHIP — The south gymnasium at Wall High School is safe for students and staff to use, despite very low levels of mercury found in the rubber flooring and air samples, according to an expert study.

“It is our professional opinion that airborne mercury levels within Wall Township High School south gym do not present any imminent health risk to students or staff at the levels measured,” according to a Nov. 4 report from Richard M. Lynch, president of the Environmental Safety Management Corporation, hired to test and evaluate the flooring. 

“In accordance with the guidance from the New Jersey Department of Health, the gym is safe for use by students and staff at the levels measured,” according to his report. 

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Mr. Lynch presented his findings at a virtual public forum hosted by the school board Monday night.

The gym has been closed since the flooring was tested over the spring and summer.

“Because south gym was deemed safe after comprehensive and independent testing, I am pleased to share that the gym may now be open, Superintendent Tracy Handerhan announced at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

The first series of air sampling was done by Partner Engineering And Science in May, June and July, and follow-up air testing was conducted in September by the ESM Corporation at the behest of Mr. Lynch, after administrators sought a second opinion.

All revealed extremely low airborne mercury levels, all well below the New Jersey Department of Health guidelines, according to Mr. Lynch.

But he recommended that air monitoring be repeated quarterly, at a minimum, beginning in December, when the gym’s overhead air handler goes into the heating mode. 

“I do think it is important to remain vigilant,” he said.

He also recommended that, should the district decide to remove the rubber flooring, it should plan, when budgeting the work, “to go all in” and also remove the concrete slab underneath and several inches of soil, because concrete is porous and can absorb mercury.

Mr. Lynch holds a doctorate in public health and epidemiology from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and a master’s degree in industrial hygiene from Temple University. 

 

 

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