PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A classroom at Jorge Alvarez High School has been temporarily closed due to high levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) being detected in the air.
The school was built on the site of a former silver factory, and specific locations in the building are tested each month.
In an email sent to parents on Sunday, Superintendent Javier Montañez and Principal Nathan Biah said TCE was found in classroom 116.
TCE is a colorless, liquid chemical that was historically used in industrial manufacturing as a grease remover, according to the R.I. Department of Health.
Until the most recent test, no elevated levels of chemicals have been found.
“The monitoring showed 3 ug/m3 (micrograms per meter cubed),” Health Department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said. “As was indicated in the message to families, the level was above the threshold set, but well below levels that would be considered an imminent concern.”
The recommendation to close that classroom was made out of an abundance of caution. Other areas of the school were not closed since air samples showed TCE below the threshold.
DEM spokesperson Mike Healey told 12 News they are investigating the cause of the elevated levels of TCE.
“TCE is a volatile organic compound, which means it can turn into a gas that people might breathe in, and is a harmful remnant of the site’s long industrial legacy,” Healey explained.
Montañez and Biah said there are no known concerns for the safety of students and staff.
“We will be working with our monitoring company and RIDOH to determine what mitigation steps are needed to address the elevated test, and when the room can be occupied again,” the email said.