Concerns about mercury prompt classroom evacuations on Long Island

NORTHPORT, Suffolk County (WABC) -- Despite repeatedly insisting that a middle school in Suffolk County is safe for students during a '7 On Your Side Investigates' report nearly two years ago, district officials have repeatedly faced complaints about terrible odors and concerns from parents that hazardous chemicals are to blame for the smells and respiratory illnesses experienced by students and staff at the school.

Now this month, the district has announced it is removing students from several classrooms at Northport Middle School as a "precautionary measure" after environmental testing detected elevated levels of mercury in a leaching pool area outside of the school building.

The environmental firm that conducted the test recommended further air and vapor testing inside three classrooms at Northport Middle School "out of an abundance of caution," and also recommended the district keep students and staff out of three classrooms pending the results of further testing.

According to the superintendent, the district expects results of further air testing within two days.

The tests follow revelations that the school district had been storing hazardous chemicals and, occasionally, a vehicle in a warehouse below classrooms in 2017 which contributed to students being removed from one wing of the school for several months pending upgrades, and ongoing complaints about bad odors that date back roughly two decades, as well as health inspections that raised concerns about improper dumping of chemicals at the school.

The district has created a subcommittee in response to parents' concerns about conditions at the school to help guide the district's actions and decisions surrounding measures to protect the health of students and staff at the school.

The latest revelations are expected to be discussed at the upcoming school board meeting this Thursday.

Superintendent Robert Banzer declined requests for comment by Eyewitness News.

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