School will proceed as usual at Chumuckla Elementary School this year, after an independent company, checking the air quality and giving a clean bill of health to the nearly 100-year-old building, did testing.
Concerns regarding the health and safety of Chumuckla Elementary School were raised last month in a letter sent to the School Board, prompting the district to hire the independent contractor to perform quality testing of the school.
"I'm happy to say the results came back resoundingly positive for the school district," said Assistant Superintendent Joey Harrell. "That's good for the safety and security of our students, as well as our teachers that teach in that building everyday."
The school board contracted with the state-certified inspection company called Professional Services Industries, Inc. (PSI) that revealed the results of a more than 100-page report at a school board meeting this week.
PSI Branch Manager Keith Wasdin explained the results to the school board. The company consults for Santa Rosa, Escambia and Okaloosa County school districts.
"When we are asked to do an investigation like this, we look at what the history of the site has been," Wasdin said. "Fortunately, the school's been there since 1921 or 1922. So that negated a lot of the things that we needed to test for. For instance, if it was adjacent to an industrial site, or if it had been a commercial site."
As far as history of the site, it had been primarily agricultural and surrounded by a wooded area, so testing for some industrial compounds was unnecessary, according to Wasdin.
"I see no concerns to immediate health to students or faculty in the building," Wasdin said. "Like I said we've been through all the school in the district from Escambia to Okaloosa. For a building the age of that one, it's in really, really good condition."
Wasdin said the building was very dry and suffered from little water intrusion. There were slight indications of water intrusion from hurricane damage. There were no signs of visible mold, according to the manager.
"Everyone assumes an old building is a moldy building," Wasdin said. "That is not the case. We found the building to be extremely dry with virtually no moisture from water intrusion."
The company performed a comparison test of mold inside versus mold outside. He said the theory is that the inside samples should have lower levels of mold. He said the samples that the company took reflected that notion.
PSI also took a core sample to test the original carpet. New carpet was installed over the old carpet, using USG FIBEROCK backer board.
Wasdin said they found "few mold spores" in the sample. The results fell on the low end of a four-tier rating scale.
"Mold is ubiquitous," Wasdin said. "It's everywhere. That was just not a concern."
Air Quality and Particulates
Chumuckla Elementary School's air was tested for volatile compounds, according to the company's manager. Wasdin said they tested for a whole litany of potential contaminates.
He said the trend in new construction is toward LEAD, (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) a program to make buildings by using environmentally friendly materials. Some building materials produce off-gases, which may contain volatile compounds like alcohol or gasoline.
Other products with volatile compounds include items like hand sanitizer, Sharpie markers and general teaching supplies, according to Wasdin.
The LEAD was used as an initial standard to base the testing. If excess compounds were found, Wasdin said they could perform additional testing. The building was found to be within acceptable levels.
"Essentially, the total volatile organic compound, which is the culmination of all of those, was slightly over the LEAD standard," Wasdin said. "Really, that's pretty good for a building built over 100 years ago."
Individual testing for volatile compounds fell below EPA residential guidelines, according to the manager. The tests also fell below Occupational Safety Health and Administration (OSHA) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) permissible exposure limits.
"Even though it was slightly a bit over the very strict criteria," Wasdin said. "That criteria is set up for building materials that are designed to be low VOC and the building really wasn't."
The company also tested the building for dust, or particulates. Wasdin said the building's atmosphere was very clean, with few particulates floating in the air.
Lead-Based Paint and Asbestos
Wasdin said he expected to find lead-based paint in the building, based on the age of the structure. The company did find lead-based paint on windowsills in the school.
"It's encapsulated under 100 years of latex paint," Wasdin said. "It's not concerning."
Lead-based paint was also discovered above the suspended ceiling, on the school's original tongue-and-groove ceiling, Wasdin said. He said it was in fairly good condition, slightly delaminating in some areas. Because of the location, only the school board's maintenance men were at risk of exposure.
"It's not accessible to students," Wasdin said. "It's not accessible to the faculty."
Harrell, in charge of the district's building maintenance, said the area was a non-issue, but he would establish a set of procedures for its maintenance staff in case any work needed to be done above the ceiling. Workers would wear OSHA-regulated masks to protect any risk of exposure. The work would be performed after hours while there are no children present in the school, and the room would be cleaned before letting teachers and students back into the area.
PSI tested for airborne lead, leading to negative results. Even with lead-based paint on the original ceiling, Wasdin said there was no risk of circulating any of that lead through the air because of the way the system is designed. Each classroom has it's own dedicated air conditioning unit, there is no main duct in the ceiling.
PSI also tested the school site for asbestos. Wasdin said they focused on the main building, because that's where the complaints were originating. The manager all of the schools in the district were surveyed for asbestos in 1988 and have been surveyed every three years since.
"We have been showing that there was no asbestos in Chumuckla," Wasdin said. "You can have asbestos reintroduced into a school. So, we surveyed the building and found no asbestos left in the main building."
The independent company also tested the water quality of the school, concerned with the age of the building's plumbing. Wasdin said they were concerned with finding copper and lead in the drinking supply.
"We did," Wasdin said. "Those levels were below safe drinking water standards."