Environmental report finds Northport Middle School is safe to open

NORTHPORT, Long Island (WABC) -- A newly released environmental report has determined a middle school on Long Island closed earlier this year over concerns about toxins on campus is safe to occupy.

The report by P.W. Grosser Consulting, Inc. is the result of months of work conducted in consultation with representatives from the New York State Department of Health, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, as well as members of the community and the Northport-East Northport School District.

The district ordered the investigation into potential environmental hazards at Northport Middle School following repeated complaints about odors on campus and the discovery of elevated levels of mercury in a cesspool.

The investigation also followed past environmental concerns and violations that date back decades, which parents worried were still impacting students.

"We really wanted to take a very comprehensive and thorough vetting of this entire process," Superintendent Robert Banzer said following the report's release. "We got the community involved. They have been involved for months. So that again, we can say here is everything that we know."

While the nearly 7,000-page report did find environmental concerns at Northport Middle School that required correction, P.W. Grosser Consulting, Inc. determined those deficiencies were not severe enough to prevent the school from reopening.

"PWGC has not identified an environmental concern that renders the school unsafe to occupy. While several items of concern were identified during the investigation, each is addressable and does not require the school to be closed to implement," the report read.

Among PWGC's findings were Carbon Monoxide detected in one wing of the campus while buses were exiting in the morning, arsenic in the school track, low-level benzene in an art room, toxins in the on-site septic system along with poorly set manholes that allowed sewage odors to escape, and drainage and ceiling issues which caused additional odor problems.

The district has already begun implementing several recommended corrections in the report including moving forward with plans to relocate buses off-campus, repairing the septic system, creating a plan to address the arsenic in the track, and repairing roof drains and other ceiling deficiencies.
Superintendent Banzer indicated the district intended to continue working through the report's recommendations.

"We have done a lot. We have taken this extremely seriously over the past years, and we are going to continue to do that and continue to build off of that," Banzer said. "We are pleased that the report is finally out. It took a while under the circumstances that we are in, but we are pleased to have it out there and have an opportunity for the community to weigh in as well."

Parents who have expressed concerns about the school said they wanted to finish reviewing the report before commenting.

7 On Your Side Investigates is also continuing to evaluate the nearly 7,000-page report.

The school district is planning a virtual meeting for next Thursday evening to help answer any questions the community might have.

Details on that meeting are still being finalized.

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