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Reynolds School District Cited For PCBs Violations

Release Date: 12/18/2000
Contact Information: Ray Nye
(206) 553-4226

December 18, 2000 - - - - - - - - - - - - 00-66

Agency proposes $94,550 Penalty for illegal handling of tainted light fixtures

The Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it is penalizing another Portland-area school district for widespread mishandling of potentially cancer-causing PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). The agency is proposing a $94,050 penalty against the Reynolds School District for 18 separate violations of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regulations on PCBs record-keeping, handling, and disposal.

Responding to complaints from school district employees, EPA investigators found significant leaking of tar-like fluid from PCBs-laden light fixtures into and around areas frequented by children and teachers. The EPA discovered that the district empoloyees and contractors failed to catalogue and properly dispose of leaking fixtures to ensure that no PCBs-tainted material contaminated work or school areas.

The PCBs violations occured at the following locations:
  • Troutdale Elementary School
  • Margaret Scott Elementary
  • Haughton Lee Middle School
  • Reynolds Middle School
  • Reynolds High School
  • a district-owned bus barn
  • and a district-owned warehouse.
An additional element of the EPA investigation focused on a 1996 EPA-funded grant given to the district through Portland General Electric to replace the old light fixtures. Despite receiving materials from EPA specifying the proper disposal of the old ballasts, district employees and contractors still failed to properly replace and dispose of the old ballasts.

While their use was banned in 1978, PCBs are potentially carcinogenic substances still found in pre-1977 fluorescent light fixtures and other electronic devices. Improper handling and disposal of PCBs are violations of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which requires substances that conatin more than 50 parts per million of PCBs be treated as a hazardous substance and disposed of in an EPA-approved hazardous waste site.