Hello All,
 
This is the first update on the activities of the Arbor Heights Elementary School, Environmental Task Force, which is an impressive sounding name for a group of people; parents, school staff, and school district personnel, who have volunteered their time to come together to work toward solving the mold, asbestos, and other environmental problems at Arbor Heights Elementary School.  The goal of the task force is to work together cooperatively, in an open and honest fashion, to find solutions that satisfy both parents and staff, and provide our kids with a safe and healthy learning environment.
 
The group has agreed to meet once a week, every Thursday, through the summer if necessary, until remediation work is completed and the problems are solved.  The task force members are:
Scott Roed, parent
E. Joe Sharp, parent
Mark Ahlness, teacher
Mitzi Sato, teacher
Richard Staudt, Seattle School District Risk Management
Fred Stephens, Seattle School District Facilities Director
Troy White, Seattle School District Environmental Coordinator
David Wick, Seattle School District  Environmental Coordinator
 
For those of you who were at the PTSA meeting last Thursday, much of this will be a review.  I'll be sending out an update each week to keep you up-to-date on what's happening.
 
The Problem:
The environmental problem stems from the fact that there's a serious standing water problem under the SW wing of the school.  Teachers and kids have reported health problems that may be due to mold exposure.  The worst of the standing water is under Room 16; Mr. Femiano's room.  Mold has been found in the crawlspaces, and the problem is complicated by the presence of deteriorating asbestos insulation on the pipes.
 
PTSA Environmental Consultant:
The Arbor Heights PTSA requested an independent environmental consultant be hired, who would be contracted by the PTSA and report directly to them, to investigate the environmental conditions at the school, advise the PTSA on the issues, and recommend corrective actions and procedures to the school district.  The PTSA hired Dr. David Anderson of Envirotest Research Inc. of Seattle (ERI).  Information on Dr. Anderson and ERI can be found on their web site at http://www.airmon.com/.  The school district has agreed to reimburse the PTSA for the cost of the consultant. 
 
Dr. Anderson will conduct his investigation, and prepare a report for the PTSA.  That report will be made available as soon as it is complete.  Dr. Anderson will also do a follow up evaluation of the school once remediation efforts are complete and issue a final report at that time.
 
Initial Assessment:
Dr. Anderson made a preliminary assessment of the conditions in the school and concluded that there was a standing water and mold problem, particularly under Room 16.  He found mold, including stachybotrys (bad) mold, growing on the asbestos.  However, he said that the problem didn't require that students and staff be immediately moved from the affected rooms, and recommended that teachers open windows and doors in the short term, to increase ventilation until the problems can be fixed.
 
Room 16 Contamination Incident:
Many parents and staff were vary concerned about possible exposure to contaminants from an incident in May, when workers opened the access door to the crawlspace under Room 16, and dragged hoses and other equipment through the classroom while students were present.  The school district has admitted that this was a serious mistake.  Subsequent testing by Dr. Anderson showed that the room had been thoroughly cleaned, to the point where there was almost not enought dust to test, and the level of contaminants in the room was extremely low.  Nobody can find a record of the mystery room cleaning, but it was cleaned, and the room is safer for the kids as a result.
 
Sealing of Crawlspaces:
School district workers have done significant work to seal the crawlspaces, so air exchange with classrooms has been minimized.  That work is continuing.
 
Water Source Investigation:
The school district has been investigating the source of the water under the building.  They've investigated water leaking from the boiler, downspouts, and a storm sewer that runs directly under the school.  They found and fixed leaks in the boiler system.  They've also identified leaks in several downspouts, some of which have been repaired.  They hired a contractor to run a probe through the storm sewer that runs under the school.  The video showed no damage, which seems to rule out leaks from there.  They also tested the water in the crawlspace, and the results showed no boiler chemicals, and indicated that the most likely source is groundwater percolating up into the space from below.  The district has hired a hydrogeologist to find the source of the standing water, and recommend steps to fix it.  Note: if anybody wants to see the storm sewer footage, we have a copy.  I'm told it's not very exiting; no alli! gators...
 
Staff Symptom Survey:
Dr. Anderson will be performing a syptom survey of the staff.  This will help him determine the level of health affects in the building, and possibly point to other sources of hidden mold within the school, not just under the SW wing.  Dr. Anderson will interview the staff over a two day period next week.  The district will provide a substitute teacher to cover for staff during the interviews.  See the section entitled "Finding Mold Before It Finds You" on the ERI web site, http://www.airmon.com/ for a description of Dr. Anderson's investigation methods.
 
Room 15 Downspout Repair:
The district survey of the building found that the downspout that runs through Room 15 is damaged, which could lead to water damage and mold growing in the downspout chase.  Repairing the damage would have taken several days, and required temporarily moving Ms. Long's class into the library.  Repairs were scheduled to be done this week.  Given the short time remaining in the year, Ms. Long requested that the work be postponed until after school is out.  It has been rescheduled.  Dr. Anderson will be present when the work is done to inspect the condition of the structure and take samples for testing.
 
Temporary Water Removal:
The district has agreed to pump the water out from under the classrooms with temporary pumps as needed, until a permanent fix can be done.  This will help begin the process of drying out the space, and retarding the growth of mold.
 
Portable Classrooms:
As stated before, Dr. Anderson didn't recommend removing people from the affected rooms, but the task force has requested that the district expidite the process of obtaining permits for portables, just in case they are needed.  The district has determined that there would be adequate electric capacity, and have begun the permitting process.  It is unlikely that they will be needed this year.
 
Permanent Solution:
A permanent solution requires first, that the space be dried out.  This will involve some form of drainage being constructed and perhaps sump pumps being installed.  Any water damaged or moldy materials will also need to be removed and repaired.  The district will present a recommendation from their contractors, which will be reviewed by the task force and Dr. Anderson.  Debris removal and asbestos remediation, i.e. clearing out all the damaged insulation, cardboard and junk from under the rooms, has already been scheduled for this summer.  The task force will continue to meet, and monitor work until all of it is completed to everybody's satisfaction.
 
Health Testing for Kids:
Many parents might want to have their children tested for mold exposure.  The district has indicated it would be willing to pay for such testing.  We'll try to clear up that position at our upcoming meeting.  Mr. Staudt brought in brocheures for the Northwest Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) at the U of W medical center, as a resource for parents with health concerns.  They were passed out at the PTSA meeting last Thursday.  The phone number for PEHSU is 1-877-KID-CHEM.  Dr. Anderson also has a list of local doctors who are knowledgeable in mold and environmental issues.  We will make that list available soon.
 
Meeting With Dr. Anderson:
Dr. Anderson has said he's willing to meet with parents and staff directly to answer your questions.  If you would like such a meeting, let us know, and we'll set it up.
 
Questions and Answers:
If you have questions, please send them to this e-mail address.  I'll take all questions and comments to the weekly task force meeting, and the responses will be published in the next update.  Mr. Ahlness will publish each update on the school web site at http://www.halcyon.com/arborhts/air/index.htm.
 
How Do I Get On/Off This Mailing List?
This distribution list was put together from the e-mail addresses given me at the last PTSA meeting.  If you want to be added to the distribution, just let me know.  Ditto for being taken off the list.
 
Thanks for your involvement.
 
--
E. Joe Sharp
Parent Representative
Arbor Heights Environmental Task Force