Testing, cleaning will continue to address odor at Mars Elementary School

October 10, 2018 Cranberry Breaking News

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ADAMS TWP — Testing will continue and additional cleaning will be completed in an effort to find the source of an odor at Mars Elementary School, officials said Tuesday.

During a meeting of the Mars School Board, Superintendent Wesley Shipley said testing was completed last week by Accredited Environmental Technologies, with additional testing to be conducted in other classrooms.

The testing was ordered last month after a musty smell was reported by students and staff at the building.

During Tuesday's meeting, Lou Pergola of Accredited Environmental Technologies, said after the first tests, inactive mold was found in the penthouse area of the building. He clarified that the area contains the air handling system and duct work that draws air into the HVAC system.

He said air quality tests in the building indicated a lower mold amount than outside the building. A second round of testing last week focused on the lingering odor, which Pergola said was significantly less noticeable after wet insulation abatement was removed and walls in the penthouse area were opened and cleaned by crews from Kress Construction.

The second tests focused on solvents and paints, as well as formaldehyde. Pergola said the results were recently received and he verbally reported that all levels were at low levels, with the formaldehyde at a moderate level. However, he said recent painting work may have contributed to that elevated reading.

“Nevertheless, we're trying to get it a little lower,” he said.

Pergola said the building is safe for occupancy, and when asked said he would have no issue with members of his family being inside the school.

“For the parameters that we tested for, yeah, it's safe,” he said.

However, he acknowledged that anyone with a sensitivity to certain molds could be impacted by any levels, though that would not be unique to being in the building.

Pergola added the district has been “proactive” in addressing leaks, which has helped stop the growth of mold in school buildings. He said that a final, in-depth report on the second round of tests would be available later this week. Additionally, he said testing will be ongoing at other schools in the district.

Shipley said at the recommendation of the firm, duct work throughout the building will be cleaned. He said the district is seeking bids for the work, with one submitted. Three bids are required for such work by state law, he said. Pergola said additional testing will be completed after that work is completed.

However, the discussion and information was lacking for some in attendance, including parent Aaron McKinney. He said he felt more concerned after Tuesday's meeting than he had since the odor was discovered.

“That really stems from the overall lack of transparency that the administration has had through this whole process,” he said, adding that the situation has been ongoing for several weeks and no resolution has been reached.

“The administration has an onus to the parents here of all the children that go to the school, and that is to make us feel comfortable that we're sending our kids into a safe environment, and we don't have that comfort,” he said.

Shipley said he has tried to provide information in as timely a fashion as he can, and that he has been in the building with other school officials every day in an effort to solve the problem. He said no complaints of an odor have been received since Oct. 1. He said the full report will be posted when it is received.

“We're taking it extremely seriously,” he said.

Middle school in compliance

In other matters Tuesday, Shipley said middle school is now in full compliance with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture after being found to be out of compliance with state last month.

The report found three violations, including that “black moist residuals” were found in an ice machine typically used for cooling foods.

Shipley said inspectors were at the school Tuesday and have found that all issues have been addressed and the school is in, “100 percent compliance.”

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