WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) — Parents concerned about a toxic problem in the gym at schools their children attend packed a Washington Township room to get answers Wednesday night. More than 100 residents demanded answers from administrators about what they plan to do about mercury found in the gym floors.
Both parents and teachers are concerned about the health risk surrounding mercury vapor, but they didn’t leave the meeting feeling too assured.
“My questions were not fully answered,” Melissa McNally, a physical education teacher at Hurffville, said. “I’m not sure if that’s because the information truly isn’t available or more so that it’s not ready to be shared. But at the end of the day, these are questions that we have to get answered to move forward.”
Eight school gymnasiums in Washington Township have synthetic floors that were installed with mercury additives. Wear and tear over time releases mercury vapor. The school district learned of the problem back in 2017, but parents weren’t told until January of this year.
“Bottom line is back in 2017, this kind of knowledge, the thing that we’re dealing with now, really wasn’t clearly known,” superintendent Joseph Bollendorf said. “These kinds of reports and recommendations that have come out from organizations like the NJEA came out later that same year. We didn’t have that information when we discovered that mercury was in our floors.”
But parents Eyewitness News spoke with say they’re not buying it.
“We just feel like we’re being deceived,” parent Colette Staab said.
The eight gyms containing mercury vapor are now closed, but parents and teachers want more to be done.
“I want the wipe test to be done just like everyone else,” Staab said. “I don’t know what the delay is on that. I don’t understand why that something they are tossing around and not answering for us.”
Still, many are left with more questions than answers, like that wipe test.
Since mercury vapor is being exposed, many are concerned their children are bringing that mercury home. However, a wipe test would either ease or validate their concerns, but that test still hasn’t happened.
The next board meeting is scheduled for April 15.