USD 259 will spend $50,000 to study possible methane issue near a school

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WICHITA, Kansas — USD 259 school board members allocated nearly $50,000 Monday night to study methane gas that could be near the Earhart Environmental Magnet School.

“The safety of our students and our staff is paramount and I want to share that all soil gases we have done in our screening studies have not been done in the building,” says Tim Phares.

Phares is with USD 259 Environmental Services.

“We do not have an issue here,” says Phares. “And the studies so far have been quite some distance away from the school in a rather swampy area that is nearby. Mostly an old riverbed.”

While Phares says there is not a problem, the study is to make sure there continues to be no problem.

Parents and grandparents with kids at the school want to know more about a small amount of gases being studied.

“Ah, I haven’t a clue. I don’t know what they are basing that on,” says Carrol Hancock, a grandparent. “I mean, they did a study. But, like I say, if that (methane) is being produced over there, maybe it’s the vegetation that dies?”

Environmental experts say it’s not vegetation from nearby trees, but the recent rains that are prompting the study.

“In earlier studies,” says Phares, “We found about two one-thousandths of one percent by volume of methane, which is not a concern.”

But with recent, heavy rains, Phares says they are looking for a more definitive study. Rains could wash in and then bury vegetative matter in the riverbed not far from the school.

School leaders say the $50,000 for the study is a precaution they are willing to bankroll.

“Absolutely it is money well spent when we look and think about safety,” says Superintendent John Allison. “There’s not a concern now but it’s one of those now that I’m learning more about, that ‘geotechnical’ area, that we want to monitor as we move forward.  So it’s really an investment in peace of mind as we continue to monitor that situation.”

The study will not be inside the school. Experts say the air inside is just fine. The study will be mostly on the riverbed of the Little Arkansas nearby. The study begins and continues for the 2013-14 school year.


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