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
Fred Stephens, Seattle School District
Troy White, Seattle School District
David Wick, Seattle School District
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 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
Thanks for your involvement.
E. Joe Sharp
Arbor Heights Environmental Task Force