July 30, 2014/For Immediate Release
UNCSA RESPONDS TO ELEVATED LEVELS OF LEAD DISCOVERED AT LEASED WAREHOUSE
Public health officials agree risk is minimal, but free testing is offered for those potentially affected
WINSTON-SALEM – Officials at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) are working with local, state and federal agencies to respond to the discovery of elevated levels of lead in and around a warehouse that the university leases to store theatrical and film props and equipment.
Although state and local health officials agree the health risk is minimal for those who accessed the facility or came into contact with items stored there, free testing is available for those who have been impacted.
“It is unlikely that any adult would experience health issues as a result of this level of exposure,” said Marlon B. Hunter, director of Forsyth County Public Health Department. “We do recommend testing to alleviate concerns and reassure everyone involved,” he said.
UNCSA identified more than 300 students – including some who have graduated – and employees who accessed the warehouse since February 2013, ranging from a few hours per week during a 15-week semester to around 25 hours per week for a few employees. All have been notified of the potential contamination and its low health risk. The university is offering free blood level testing in Student Health Services through August.
The University was officially notified on July 21 that the warehouse at 500 Battery Drive has elevated levels of lead in dust on the floor and on some of the building’s contents. The lead dust was discovered when county officials conducting a routine safety inspection of a nearby abandoned battery factory found evidence of lead contamination.
Both the factory and the warehouse were built by Douglas Battery Manufacturing Co., which ceased manufacturing operations in 2010 and filed for bankruptcy in 2012. UNCSA began leasing part of the warehouse from Lexington Road Properties, owners of Douglas Battery, in January 2013. The property is now owned by Pearl Pacific LLC. The University’s lease expires in December.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the lead dust was likely tracked in from the parking areas, where buried battery casings are washing up from the soil, or were carried in through the heating system.
Chris Boyd, UNCSA’s vice chancellor for facilities management, said the school’s top priority is ensuring the health and well-being of its students, alumni and employees, and anyone else who might have been impacted. “We want everyone who has even the slightest concern to get a blood test, so they can lay that concern to rest,” he said.
Staff and faculty from the schools of Filmmaking and Design & Production are working with Boyd to determine what contents of the building can be cleaned and what will need to be replaced. He said that will be done quickly to minimize the effect on the arts training programs.
As America’s first state-supported arts school, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.
Media contact for UNCSA: Lauren Whitaker firstname.lastname@example.org 336-734-2891
Media contact for EPA: James Pinkney Pinkney.email@example.com 404-695-5503
Media contact for Forsyth County Public Health: Yalanda Miller firstname.lastname@example.org 336-703-3122
Media contact for NC Public Health: Dr. Rick Langley email@example.com 919-707-5900
Media contact of NC Division of Waste Management: Cathy Akroyd firstname.lastname@example.org 919-707-8234