WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) — The Washington Township School District in South Jersey has had a busy summer, ripping out gym floors that contain mercury. Now, another nearby district is facing the same problem.
It’s been no summer break inside Washington Township school’s gyms. Nine gym floors were removed and replaced where deteriorating rubber material was releasing mercury vapor.
“Part of the abatement process required us to do a full battery of testing, air quality testing, which was ongoing during the abatement process,” Washington Township Schools Superintendent Joe Bollendorf said.
Bollendorf says the final product should give parents confidence about sending children back to school next week.
“I think they should have a 100% high degree of confidence,” Bollendorf said.
With all eyes on the new gym floor material to start the school year, Washington Township officials showed Eyewitness News the new product, which they say is state-of-the-art and, most importantly, mercury-free.
Throughout the country, many schools that installed rubber gym floors prior to the mid-2000s are finding out they have mercury problems.
While Washington Township had the budget flexibility to spend more than $3 million to replace their gym floors, nearby Wenonah is taking a different approach.
This spring, administrators learned that the gym in their only school has mercury.
“I’m very concerned. I’m very concerned because we don’t know long-term effects of low-dose mercury,” Wenonah parent Patrick Ream said. “We want the gym floor replaced.”
But on Tuesday, the Wenonah Board of Education told a packed house that replacing the floor is probably not going to happen this year.
Instead, they cleaned the gym, increased ventilation, modernized the thermostat and scheduled regular testing to make sure the mercury vapor stays well below state standards.
“All the experts say — the Department of Health says it is safe for the students to be in the gym,” Wenonah Superintendent Kristine Height said.
Administrators say that they are applying for emergency state aid to address the floor and, at some point, maybe replace it.
Eyewitness News learned more than 80 families plan to have their children boycott the gym and the district says they’ll make accommodations for those who provide doctors’ notes.