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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Initial EPA Test In Burlington Finds Chemicals Below Federal Danger Levels

looking up at an Elmwood Avenue street sign
Ari Snider
The regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency said their initial tests in Burlington's Old North End for PCE and TCE were below the levels considered dangerous by the federal government. There will be more tests next week.

According to initial test results from the Environmental Protection Agency, levels of airborne chemicals in Burlington's Old North End neighborhood are below those considered dangerous to human health by the federal government.

The agency's first tests showed levels of the chemicals perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE) well below what the agency considers hazardous to human health. However, levels of PCE at the Integrated Arts Academy elementary school did exceed what the state of Vermont deems safe. State levels are considerably lower than the federal standards.

"And therefore, the state is going to continue working with the school to monitor indoor air and to take mitigating steps," said Alexandra Dunn, the EPA's regional director for New England.

More from VPR — EPA Testing For Hazardous Chemicals In Burlington Neighborhood [Aug. 8]

The chemicals are often used in dry cleaning; Dunn said there was a dry cleaner and other industry in the area decades ago, but said it's unclear if that was the source of the chemicals.

The EPA will try to determine the chemicals' source when testing resumes next week in nearby homes and public roads, Dunn said.

"And then of course we'll continue to communicate both with the state environment department, as well as the health department, and residents" Dunn said, "so that we can keep everyone apprised of our progress."

Dunn said the chemicals can cause cancer and developmental issues in fetuses and can effect the immune and central nervous systems at high levels of exposure or over long periods of time. 

In an EPA release issued Thursday, officials also said there is no related health concern with activities involving the soil on the school grounds, and there is no indication that homegrown produce is affected by the presence of the chemicals.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
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