School district to meet with Hume school parents over mould removal; some parents already switched schools

Nelson Daily Staff
By Nelson Daily Staff
January 16th, 2013

By Suzy Hamilton, The Nelson Daily

School District 8 and public health officials have agreed to meet with Hume School parents about air quality and related health issues at the elementary school.

After a series of air quality tests, mould was removed from the school over Christmas break, but the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) is not convinced that it is safe for the children to return.

Some children have even switched schools.

“It’s as though we’ve been in an information vacuum,” said parent  and PAC member  Scott Steer.

“IH (Interior Health) and Worksafe BC have been invisible on the matter and left it to us to figure out if our kids are at risk.” 

“We need a public meeting to have public health officials tell us they have seen every test…and look us in the eye and tell us it is safe,” added parent Gary Bibby-Fox.

Last spring some Hume school staff  made health complaints and identified an odor  in the school that led to air quality assessments in September. Elevated levels of mould were discovered in the activity/bookroom area of the school. 

According to School District 8 District Operations manager Larry Brown, the odor smelled like a “herbicide or a pesticide.”

“We were chasing things that turned out not to be right,” said Brown.

The district then hired PHH Arc Environmental from Kelowna who immediately found a leaking valve on the hot water tank that provided moisture for the moulds to grow under  what was the old gym, now used as an activity and lunchroom area.

CBC radio has reported that the mould was “black mould”, however according to Bibby-Fox, the mould commonly called black mould (stachybotrys)  was tested for but not present.

Elevated levels of other common moulds such as aspergillus andpenicillium, however, were present according to reports received by Bibby-Fox, and equally concerning.

It is the spores of moulds that can cause health problems. 

“There didn’t seem to be any real level of what is safe,” he said. “We had nothing to put our finger on.” 

Concern heightened as several children came down with asthmatic conditions, said Steer. “People are reporting health effects that their kids never had before.”

Steer is concerned that testing is “very limited. Only recently have they expanded the tests,” he said. Parents, he said, want assurances that other areas in the old school are safe.

But School District superintendent Jeff Jones said now that the mould has been cleaned out, the school is safe for children. The district will continue to perform regular air quality samples. “We will be super diligent,” he said.

Air quality samples taken before, during and after remediation show that the air quality is now within acceptable limits except for “a bump in the paper room” said Brown.

In addition to removing the floor in the activity room, cleaning and treating the joists, the storage room, kitchen and ducts have also been cleaned, he said.

Jones said he is concerned about the students who have left the school, “And I do understand, but I believe that the school is now safe.” 

Added Brown: (As a parent) “You do what you think is right. We’re trying to get past this and monitoring it for the long term, hoping the school will be returned to normal.”

Steer is pleased that a meeting is scheduled. “It’s what is needed. As far as I know, all the numbers are not yet normal.”

The date has not yet been announced for the meeting.

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Categories: Education


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