|WCSB To Address Mold Issue |
|By SABRINA BATES |
Chief Staff Writer
An issue that has sparked controversy among a group of parents with children enrolled at Westview High School will be on the agenda for the members of the Weakley County School Board on Thursday.
Last week saw a rally staged by several WHS students, meetings and a lawsuit publicly announced concerning a Martin family claiming their son has been the victim of the unhealthy effects of contact with mold over a three-year span at the Martin school.
A group of parents met with Steve Stamper, a mold specialist out of Paducah, Ky., Wednesday night to address the difference between clean-up and remediation of mold in buildings.
“When you clean up mold, people usually use bleach and water which will kill mold, but remediation involves removing the source of moisture, then you can get rid of the mold,” Stamper said. He explained that cosmetic removal of mold on the surface would not eliminate a mold problem if it lingers behind walls, in air ducts or in porous surfaces.
Stamper explained mold has to have three things to prosper — the right temperature, a food source and moisture levels.
“When a school is carrying too much moisture, it is sometimes seen in the ductwork. If mold is found in an HVAC system, you could have a bad mold spore problem,” he said.
“Parents — educate yourselves. The board of education would not commit to a timeline. Our goal is to get the school cleaned and get our kids better. Flood the phone lines. Call the school and email your legislatures. According to a TOSHA representative, the state of Tennessee has no indoor air quality standards. They need to make a change. We need a law,” said Carol Hinman, mother of Griffin Pochop, a WHS senior who helped organize last week’s student demonstration.
“Not many people get seriously sick from mold, but if a person already has a sinus problem or a cold, mold could make you very sick. It primarily grows indoors and, just because you clean the air, you wouldn’t necessarily get rid of all of it,” Stamper explained.
He said there is no difference between mold and mildew and added, “everybody has a little mold.”
Weakley County Public Safety Director Jamison Peevyhouse conducted an examination of the high school Wednesday and is now working on a report to submit to TOSHA, as well as the Weakley County Board of Education.
Peevyhouse said the walk-through was a follow-up to a November 2005 examination of the school at the request of TOSHA safety compliance officer Gerald Wardlow, who allegedly received a complaint from a parent citing an undetermined amount of mold that may be present throughout Westview High School.
In comparing his 2005 inspection of the school to the most recent investigation last week, Peevyhouse said there was a “definite improvement.”
“We need to get the entire picture of the Westview situation with independent interpretation and allow that to determine our reaction to it,” he said. “Per CDC, they state that it is not as important to determine the type of mold as it is to clean it up. Our two most important issues are to eradicate the mold and the source of moisture is fixed.”
Although not confirmed, areas of concern included high humidity levels in different locations throughout the school, weather-stripping around entryways that were in need of repair and issues concerning ductwork and its insulation. These are expected to be addressed in Peevyhouse’s final report.
According to “Pop” Bondurant of Sidonia, tears and holes in ductwork are main sources of condensation or moisture build-up around HVAC pipes within a building.
“You usually have insulation wrapped around ductwork and, if there are tears or holes in that insulation or duct, hot air will get in. Once hot air gets inside the duct, it mixes with the cold air and the duct will start sweating. Then you are not moving enough air and humidity levels increase,” he said.
He has been in the local business of placing and repairing ductwork for almost 50 years.
Bondurant said one way to combat high moisture levels is to run the air conditioning unit longer to help pull the humidity out of the air, but the areas of moisture need to be cleaned immediately.
The Joost family of Martin currently has a suit against the Weakley County Board of Education, Weakley County, Weakley County Director of Schools Richard Barber, air quality professionals and H&M Construction for the health afflictions the Joost’s son allegedly suffered from as a result of mold throughout Westview High School.
According to Larry Parrish of Memphis, attorney for the Joosts, the family has requested having a representative present, observing and photographing whatever is replaced or fixed before it is replaced or fixed, during the time it is being replaced or fixed and after it is replaced or fixed.
“Additionally, the Joosts have asked for the same privilege with respect to any other changes that occur within Westview that disturb the condition of mold or conditions that contribute to mold generation before the changes,” Parrish stated in an email over the weekend.
Parrish said the family has also requested that any materials removed or changed by replacing or fixing not be destroyed but kept undisturbed for use as evidence of what the conditions were before the changes, if a trial became necessary.
The board is under no obligation to honor the Joost family’s requests; however, Parrish said if the board chooses to ignore the requests, the Joosts will contend the board destroyed evidence they would have relied on in court to establish the truth of their claims concerning the conditions that prevailed at Westview while their son was a student.
The Joosts have asked for a jury to hear the lawsuit.
School board members will address mold issues at Westview High School during its regular monthly meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Martin Primary School.