WESTPORT — The replacement of a cooling tower at Greens Farms Elementary School was flagged by Director of Facilities Ted Hunyadi as the most pressing item in this year’s capital projects.

Before the school board, Hunyadi said the tower at Greens Farms is showing “signs of corrosion” and he is concerned the breakdown could cause water to permeate through the building. The project is set to cost $142,000.

“It’s a very difficult tower, since that cooling tower was constructed on the roof and then basically a masonry room and space created around it. So you’ll have to remove a portion of the roof and possibly remove some of the masonry and cranes that structure out and crane a new one in,” he said.

Another priority for Hunyadi is the replacement of the Coleytown Middle School cooling tower. Both the cooling towers at Coleytown Middle School and Greens Farms Elementary School are over 20 years old and in need of replacement. The Coleytown Middle School cooling tower replacement would cost $95,000. Another goal for this year is the $185,000 installation of an air conditioning unit in the gymnasium at Coleytown Middle School, an amenity the gymnasium has been without.

The final capital project slated for this fiscal year is the $180,000 replacement of three air handling units located in the pool area at Staples High School.

Through 2022, 13 capital projects totaling $5.7 million are listed. Other target projects include $1.4 million for replacing roofs at Staples High School, a $600,000 classroom lead remediation effort at Kings Highway Elementary School and a $1.4 million locker room to classroom conversion at Long Lots Elementary School.

Capital project on hold for years

More Information

What are PCBs? (Source NIEH: https://tools.niehs.nih.gov/srp/research/research4_s4_s2.cfm )

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a family of 209 chemical compounds for which there are no natural sources. Because of their stability, resistance to fire and electrical insulating properties, PCBs were widely used in a variety of industrial applications. Unfortunately, these characteristics make PCBs problematic for the environment, as they are persistent and generally unalterable by microorganisms or by chemical reactions. PCBs have been demonstrated to cause cancer and a variety of adverse health effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems. (via National Insitute of Environmental Health Sciences)

Board member Karen Kleine inquired about the Long Lots Elementary School window replacement project, which she noted was on the capital projects list since 2000, but is no longer on the list.

“It’s not listed anymore. It’s actually on hold pending a building use study. The last projected cost to replace the Long Lots windows exceeded $1.2 million,” Elio Longo, school director of business operations, said. “When you’re looking at a structure known as Long Lots, you also have to be concerned with the PCBs in building materials.”

Long Lots Elementary School was built in 1953 and underwent four subsequent expansions: 1957, 1962, 1971 and 1979, Longo said. In April 1979, the Environmental Protection Agency banned the manufacture of polychlorinated biphenyls and phased out their use.

The root of Longo’s concern stems from the age of the building and that the building and its renovations took place before the EPA banned PCBs, he said. With the knowledge that building materials in large part contained PCBs in window caulk prior to 1979, the school district opted to wait to proceed until a building use study is complete, which Longo said should be done by April.

@chrismmarquette; cmarquette@bcnnew.com