Cancer-causing chemical found in groundwater on campus of Oakland school

Bay Area

OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) – McClymonds High School is closed to all students and staff until further notice as authorities investigate a hazardous substance found in groundwater under the campus.

Officials said crews removed a fuel tank near the school’s tennis courts and discovered the cancer-causing chemical tricloroethylene (TCE) in the groundwater below the school.

“We are concerned it could be vaporizing, meaning it is seeping up through the ground and exiting the ground and getting into the air in particular into our buildings,” John Sasaki said.

>> INTERACTIVE MAP: TCE CLEANUP SITES NEAR MCCLYMONDS HIGH SCHOOL

Over the next several days, air samples will be collected to see if that is happening.

School officials have confirmed the toxins are not originating on the school site, and they confirm the state is cleaning up a handful of contaminated sites less than a mile away including this one, all of which were contaminated with the same chemical.

“I am outraged as a parent,” Tolani King said. “I am concerned, really frustrated.”

King is the mother of a senior at McClymonds High School.

“I am frustrated because this continues to be a problem with the district with old dilapidated facilities but they continue to patch them up and let children come to them,” King said. “When and where are we going to put a stop to this? This is our children’s lives.”

This also raises the question if the groundwater under the school is contaminated with TCE, what about the groundwater under nearby homes?

That’s a question no one seems to have the answer to.

McClymonds will be closed Friday and likely into early next week, but school officials are looking for an alternate site so they can resume classes as soon as possible. 

In a press conference on Thursday, by the Oakland Unified School District and Alameda County Environmental Health office, officials said the cancer causing substance was discovered when investigating a separate petroleum tank that was leaking. The results of the petroleum tests were found negative.

The school district acknowledged that the campus has a history of high cancer rates, including two football players who contracted cancer in recent years.

TCE is a is a colorless, volatile liquid that is produced in large volumes for commercial use, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

It is primarily used to make hydrofluorocarbon chemicals, especially refrigerants, and as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts.

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