MARY MEAUX — Local schools rank high for air toxins

Published 12:04 am Thursday, June 9, 2022

A special report on the 50 U.S. schools with the most toxic air shows two Groves schools ranking third and fourth worst.

The report, published by  AAAStateofPlay, used data from the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Political Economy Research project. The scores are based on the concentration of air toxins in a specific area within 31 miles of industrial facilities.

Groves Middle School and Van Buren Elementary School, which are located adjacent to each other in Groves, have three times the air toxic hazard of other Groves schools.

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The biggest toxic hazard for these two schools and all in our area is ethylene oxide.

According to the PERI report, there are nine schools with worse air toxic ranks than these two schools nationwide, their air toxic concentration is 343.47 times the national average at schools.

There are 0 schools with worse air toxic ranks than these two schools statewide and their air toxic concentration is 151.93 times the state average at schools.

Simply put, that’s a lot.

Port Neches-Groves High School in Port Neches came in at No. 27, Groves Elementary at No. 24 and West Groves Early Learning Center at No. 21.

While Port Arthur and Nederland schools didn’t make the top 50 list, there was information showing some not so pleasant data.

St. Catherine of Siena School had an air toxic concentration 55.45 times the national average at schools and there are 31 schools with worse air toxic ranks than this school statewide.

Adams Elementary’s stats show the school’s air toxic concentration 51.66 times the national average at schools and there are 35 schools with worse air toxic ranks than this school statewide.

Washington Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools — each located on Port Arthur’s West Side not far from areas known to have air quality issues — ranked far less toxicity than the others.

Washington school’s air toxic concentration is 25.52 times the national average at schools and there are 134 schools with worse air toxic ranks than this school statewide. Lincoln’s air toxic concentration is 24.66 times the national average at schools and there are 142 schools with worse air toxic ranks than this school statewide.

Nederland’s Highland Park Elementary has an air toxic concentration is 41.8 times the national average at schools. There are 54 schools with worse air toxic ranks than this school statewide.

But what does this mean to our area?

Look at the history.

In December 2008, USA Today published a report titled “The Smokestack Effect — Toxic Air and America’s Schools,” which drew attention to the issue and earned several journalism wards, according to information from PERI.

By 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator initiated an air-monitoring project at 63 schools. The effort did not lead to any significant regulatory or policy change.

I do not know the answer to this issue. I do not know how, or if, the air toxins have affected anyone.

I’m only stating what one study found.

Mary Meaux is a news reporter at The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at mary.meaux@panews.com.