Air near area schools largely clean

Nashua area schools have relatively few toxic chemicals in the air that blows past them, according to a nationwide analysis of environmental records by USA Today newspaper.

New Hampshire, as a state, did well on the survey, although some problems were identified, notably schools around Merrimack Station, a coal-fired power plant in Bow that by most measures is the biggest single source of air pollution in the state.

Throughout the dozen communities in Greater Nashua, all but four schools ranked at least in the 60th percentile nationally – meaning their surrounding air was as clean as, or cleaner than, the air at 60 percent of the nation’s 127,000 schools.

The exceptions are Bishop Guertin High School, in the 42nd percentile; Fairgrounds elementary and middle schools, both in the 50th percentile; and Rivier College Early Childhood, in the 47th percentile.

USA Today made these determinations by looking at the Toxics Release Inventory program. It includes data on airborne emissions collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as computer models that estimate the presence of emissions in nearby communities.

The newspaper story is based on 2005 data, the most recent available. This leads to some anomalies. For example, part of the reason that Rivier’s preschool program scored poorly is its proximity to the Batesville Casket factory on Palm Street – but that factory closed three years ago.

The lowest-scoring Nashua schools are those closest to the downwind side of three companies around Exit 5 identified as problems: Advanced Circuit Technology on Northeastern Boulevard, and Amphenol TCS Circuits and Bronze Craft Corp., both off West Hollis Street.

The entire report, “The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and American’s Schools” is available online at content.usa environment/smokestack/index.