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Release Date: 08/08/2000
Contact Information: Dawn Harris-Young, (404) 562-8421,
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the completion of its investigation at Tuttle Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. The investigation was conducted under the authority of the Comprehensive Environmental Response and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as Superfund) to determine if the site presents risk to human health and the environment that are sufficient to warrant further investigation and/or remediation.

Based on the findings, chemical concentrations in the soil and groundwater are not at levels that warrant further Superfund assessment. The results indicate no current build-up of methane gas within the school buildings. However, EPA is concerned about the potential build-up of methane gas beneath the school.

As a result, EPA, in consultation with the ATSDR and Florida Department of Health, has developed several recommendations for the Sarasota County School Board. These recommendations include further methane monitoring outside the buildings and continuous monitoring within the buildings. The additional air monitoring, combined with the construction measures already taken at the school, should provide a safe learning environment for both students and teachers. EPA will continue to support the Sarasota County School Board's efforts to address the methane issue by providing assistance during the development of the methane monitoring program.

EPA has collected air, surface and subsurface soil, surface water, sediment and groundwater samples as part of the site assessment. In addition, air monitoring was conducted to determine rates of methane gas movement.

Tuttle Elementary School is located on the corner of Tuttle Avenue and Eighth Street in Sarasota. The new school occupies the western section of 19 acres owned by Sarasota County, which also includes a former municipal landfill. The landfill was operational from the late 1950s to the late 1960s. Since the landfill was active before existing environmental regulations, complete information is unavailable regarding the types of waste deposited in the landfill.

Recognizing that most landfills generate methane, a potentially explosive gas, measures were taken during the design and construction of the school to minimize the possibility of methane gas accumulation inside the school buildings. This included placing impermeable material between the landfill material and the building's foundation and the installation of horizontal pipes to allow any gases which might accumulate to passively vent to the outside air.