Acree stands by previous court order in mold hearing

Acree stands by previous court order in mold hearing
After hearing nearly two days of testimony, 27th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge William Acree stood by his February order to have a local public high school remediated of mold.
The judge determined on Tuesday during a temporary injunction hearing that the Weakley County Board of Education had acknowledged the presence of mold inside of Westview High School. He also said the Board planned to “fix” the problems, although a formal written plan had not yet been submitted to the court. The hearing was a request by Carol Hinman of Martin to cease operations at the school until the building was rid of what was considered by some to be “toxic mold.”
Hinman has filed suit against the Weakley County Board of Education with claims that two of her children who attended the Martin high school had suffered medical affects due to mold contamination inside the building.
Acree ordered Jason Pannu, attorney for the school board, to submit a written plan describing steps that will be used to remediate the public school.
During testimony by Dr. Elliott Horner on Tuesday it was revealed that WHS did have water infiltration issues that led to high levels of moisture throughout the building. Horner also noted that he found “visible mold growth” in the building and had recommended the school be remediated.
Hinman’s attorney Larry Parrish of Memphis asked Horner why there was no remediation plan after the mycologist found mold growth inside the building last August.
“I did discuss this with my client, Mr. Pannu. Those recommendations were passed on to him,” Horner replied.
Horner never clarified throughout his testimony, how much mold a building can house before it becomes “excessive” or poses a health threat to its occupants. The mycologist, who is employed through Air Quality Sciences of Georgia, was hired by Pannu to conduct a joint inspection of Westview High School for signs of mold growth last August. Dr. Richard Lipsey performed source sampling on behalf of the plaintiffs alongside Horner in August.
According to Lipsey’s report, certain types of mold growth deemed to toxic in “excessive” amounts including Stachybotrys, Cladosporium and Aspergillus were found in areas of the high school.
Acree ordered the Board of Education to begin immediate “temporary” remediation efforts at the school with permanent remedial measures to be taken by the Board during the students’ summer break. The circuit court judge heard testimony Monday and Tuesday that described the progress made on remediation efforts.
Horner testified that at least one wing of the building had been remediated while half of the HVAC system’s insulation covering the duct piping had been replaced. It was discovered during February’s hearing that the insulation on the duct pipes had posed condensation issues, which in turn lead to mold growth on ceiling tiles in areas throughout the school.
Westview High School uses a chiller system to cool the building. Previous testimony cited the system had not properly functioned and dampers used to control fresh air intake had been disconnected.
Acree stood by his order to have the entire HVAC system at the school inspected.
Architectural consultant James Kavanagh testified on Monday after an inspection of the building, engineering measures such as a regrading around the school building to open “weep holes” and gable replacement need to take place as long-term solutions to eliminate further water infiltration.
In reference to the temporary injunction hearing for Martin Middle School, Horner testified there was not enough evidence to determine if the building would require further mold sampling to take place. He did advise general housekeeping issues have contributed to dust build-up inside the school and recommended a top to bottom thorough cleaning of MMS. After a clean-up, Horner said a visual inspection would be sufficient to determine if there is mold growth inside the middle school.
Acree agreed to Horner’s recommendation.
“We are very pleased. We are very happy with the judge’s recommendations. These steps are all good steps that are beneficial for all parties involved,” Amber Griffin, a member of the legal team for the Hinman family, commented after Acree’s ruling on Tuesday.
Pannu said he would handle the written plan to present to the judge immediately. He added the Board would then take the proper steps through the Weakley County Commission to put out bids for the remedial work to take place this summer.
Two families have sued the Board with claims their children have become ill as a result of contact with mold throughout Westview. Griffin said she would continue with the litigation through discovery. Both Hinman and the Joost family, who filed the first suit against Weakley County Superintendent of Schools Richard Barber, the Weakley County Board of Education and Weakley County as a government entity, are requesting jury trials for the pending litigation.
WCP 5.15.08

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