No mercury vapor risk in Great Neck schools: Superintendent

Janelle Clausen

The Great Neck Public Schools are free from risk of mercury vapors, the school’s superintendent said last Thursday, following reports of three Long Island schools utilizing rubberlike flooring that emitted mercury vapors.

Superintendent of Schools Teresa Prendergast said administrators immediately contacted its environmental consultants, JD Broderick, following the June 11 recommendation from the state Department of Education that schools do an inventory and testing of flooring materials for mercury.

“[Our consultants have] come in and acknowledged that we do not have any flooring like that anywhere in the district and therefore we have no problems or concerns with any mercury vapors in our schools,” Prendergast said.

MaryEllen Elia, the commissioner of the state Education Department, said in a letter dated June 11 that it received reports of “rubber-like polyurethane floors using phenyl mercuric acetate” – or PMA – installed throughout school facilities between the 1960s and 1990s.

PMA, a chemical catalyst, in turn “can break down and release odorless, colorless mercury vapor at room temperatures,” the letter said. It goes on to request school district leaders review if they have rubber-like polyurethane floors, test them and report the results.

Low levels of mercury vapor were found in the gyms of Park Avenue Memorial Elementary in Amityville, Norman J. Levy Lakeside Elementary in Merrick, and Miller Place High School, Newsday reported last month, leading to the closure of the affected facilities.

While the tested levels were low, health experts say prolonged exposure to the odorless and colorless mercury fumes can adversely impact brain function.


About the author

Janelle Clausen

Janelle Clausen is a reporter with Blank Slate Media covering the Great Neck peninsula and Town of North Hempstead. She previously freelanced for the Amityville Record, Massapequa Post and the Babylon Beacon. When not reporting, the south shore native can...
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