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Local Schools Score Extremely Poorly In New Environmental Study

Reader Randy pointed me in the direction to some rather disturbing news regarding pollution levels at our local schools. USA Today released a special report called the Smokestack Effect, which "used an EPA model to track the path of industrial pollution and mapped the locations of almost 128,000 schools to determine the levels of toxic chemicals outside."

Sadly, most of the schools in Phoenixville scored very poorly. Below are the results, click the link to see the full details:

Phoenixville Area Kindergarten Center - 1st Percentile (only 149 of 127,800 schools have worse air)

Barkley Elementary School - 3rd Percentile (only 2,037 of 127,800 schools have worse air)

Phoenixville Area High School - 8th Percentile (only 9,497 of 127,800 schools have worse air)

Phoenixville Area Middle School - 8th Percentile (only 9,497 of 127,800 schools have worse air)

Schuylkill Elementary School - 8th Percentile (only 9,497 of 127,800 schools have worse air)

The methodology used for the study can be viewed here.

Its important to note that these results are based on modeled data using information provided to the EPA by industrial and government facilities. Having said that, since all schools were subject to the same methodology, it stands to reason that the results are pretty accurate.

Randy is trying to contact the Chester County Health Department to see if they have done any air quality studies recently to see if things are as bad as this study indicates. I will post any updates that he sends along.

UPDATE: Interim Superintendent of Schools Terry Mancini has posted a PDF on the school district's website addressing the report. Click here to view the PDF.

UPDATE 12/11: Here are the websites for both Senator Dinniman and Representative-Elect Drucker. Both have contact forms on which you can submit a message requesting that they look into the potential issue we are facing.

Senator Dinniman:
Rep-elect Drucker:

UPDATE 12/11 4:45pm: It has been suggested that concerned parties also get in touch with House Members Sestak and Gerlach. Their websites, along with contact info, can be found at:

Representative Sestak:
Representative Gerlach:


RMorin said…
Thanks for posting this Jim. This should be a major concern for our community. I sent this on to the Superintendent of PASD as well.
Anonymous said…
Was the results for East Pikeland not posted along with the other results?
Anonymous said…
It's sad to see Schuylkill receive such a dismal score especially seeing how that school is just a few years old.

Should this report, if the methods of study are found to be good, be to any one's surprise? This is the same school district that seriously looked into building an elementary school on a Superfund site.
JW said…
East Pikeland is in the 25th percentile. Here is a link to all of the schools in Phoenixville

All of the schools that fared the worst are in relatively close proximity to Temtco Steel. For some reason, the #'s they have reported to the EPA set off alarm bells in this study. Its clear that as the schools get further away from their plant, the #'s improve pretty quickly.

The question becomes whether Temtco is indeed polluting the area to the extent that the models in this study suggest or not. Either way, I hope that it is sufficient to get the Health Department or EPA to to do an air quality study to see if our kids are in as much danger as this study seems to indicate they may be.
Anonymous said…
After extensive reading, I agree that Temtco Steel seems to be the major offender. I'm relieved that the Administration is on top of the situation, as they should be, but it's of small comfort to those of us who live nearby and worry about the safety and well being of our children. I have contacted our Representatives in Congress; perhaps they will be able to partner with us in finding a workable solution to this situation.
Anonymous said…
Bother "patience" -- it's time to pressure the Chester County Health Department to do actual air quality tests to find out what's really going on.

Comments should also be sent to our new State Rep (Drucker) and State Senator (Dinniman) as state monitoring would probably be a good idea also.
RMorin said…
It is great that PASD is aware of the issue and gathering information. I'm glad that PASD wrote the PDF letter, but this issue is larger than just the Kindergarten Center. The ratings for Barkley, the middle school, and high school were terrible as well. The study indicates that the town as a whole may have poor outdoor air quality. Therefore, this problem is larger than just the PASD. It needs to be addressed by the entire community.
Anonymous said…
Has the Phoenix and/or Inquirer picked up this story yet? Your blog should contact NBC, ABC and CBS; I can't imagine them not jumping on this one. Whatever it takes to correct the problem.
JW said…
I have not seen anything in either paper. This morning I sent an email to Senator Dinniman and plan to do the same for Rep. Drucker.
RMorin said…
For what it's worth, I did contact the Chester Co. Health Dept. They directed me to the PA DEP because the health dept apparently only deals with indoor air quality. I haven't heard back from the DEP, but I know the district has contacted them. Hopefully they will get an air quality study going ASAP.
RMorin said…
Good news and bad news from the DEP -

Good news - Outdated data may have been used in the models. Since no air sampling has been conducted we don't if there is a problem.

Bad news - There has been no air sampling conducted so we don't know if there is a problem.

Hopefully the DEP, county, district, or someone will begin the air sampling ASAP.

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