Toxic substance experts evaluating air around McClymonds High School

McClymonds High School in West Oakland remained closed Friday for the second day in a row.

The concern is whether vapors from a known cancer-causing chemical called TCE has infiltrated the building.

It was found in the groundwater under the school, but not in the drinking water.

The Oakland Unified School District has hired hazardous chemical experts to begin testing Saturday.

"We are hoping to find in our testing that, and we are doing it in conjunction with the state and county that we will find there is no threat. That is what we are hoping," says district spokesman John Sasaki.

The district is scrambling to find a temporary place large enough to accommodate the school's approximately 350 students until the safety issue is sorted out.

The district discovered traces of TCE in an area where a petroleum tank was removed last fall. The district wants to know if its gotten into the air.

TCE, or trichloroethylene is typically used as as an industrial solvent and is classified as a known carcinogen. 

The source of the contamination is unclear. But according to the California Department of Toxic Substances website, there are five soil sites within half a mile of McClymonds that contain TCE among other chemicals.

Kevin Lynch lives near what used to be lane metal finishers on San Pablo Avenue, one of the sites.

"It's not in the ground. It's in the air. And yeah very concerning," says Lynch. 

The site is now a vacant lot where the state interlude a complex maze of pipes called a soil vapor extraction system in an attempt to scrub the site.

Lynch says the state hasn't reached out in a while although the site is still listed as active on the website.

"Want more clarity. Be more declarative. What does the substance do to us," Lynch says.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control issued a statement saying:

"We are looking into other contaminated sites in the area to determine if there is a connection with the tce levels found in groundwater at the school. We will analyze all of this information to determine the additional actions needed and what dtsc can best do to ensure the safety of the school."

The results from the vapor testing at McClymonds should be ready in about a week.