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Burlington, Vt., high school contamination more extensive than feared

Burlington high school students are attending school at the new "Downtown BHS," an old Macy's department store turned into a school.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Officials at a Vermont high school have announced that toxic chemical contamination at the school is more extensive than expected and will be costly to decontaminate.

Burlington Schools Superintendent Tom Flanagan said that the news continues to “worsen” as the school district continues to learn more about the polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCB, contamination at Burlington High School.

The school has been closed since September after PCBs were detected in air samples, WCAX-TV reported.

The district has utilized a renovated Macy's store downtown as a location for the school and expects that students can remain there for another few years.


Consultants working to identify the source of the contamination have found the chemicals in caulking, light fixtures, floor tiles, and concrete.

A pilot project is underway and is expected to provide an estimated cost for renovations in August. The project is projected to cost between $7 and $12 million.

“I’m not convinced it is of value to students, staff or taxpayers to spend millions of dollars on remediation as we still might not get below the state’s screening threshold for airborne PCBs and would need annual monitoring which comes at an additional cost,” Flanagan said.