Report: No health hazards at Sun Valley High

Jun. 05, 2014 @ 04:25 PM

There are no obvious health hazards in Sun Valley High School, according to  the North Carolina Division of Public Heath officials who conducted a study of the building April 2. 

The study was requested by State Senator Tommy Tucker, after many parents affected by redistricting requested it. The report was written by David Lipton, from the occupational and environmental epidemiology branch. 

Industrial Hygienists from the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch in the Epidemiology Section for the public health division conducted the study. 

Tucker, representatives from Union County Public Schools, representatives from the Union County Health Department and several parents participated in the walkthroughs and inspections, according to the report. 

"The recommendations contained in this report are intended to promote indoor environmental conditions that are conducive to health, well-being and the learning environment," the report read." Good hygiene practices were used to conduct this survey and make appropriate recommendations. Nothing should be assumed concerning other conditions or areas." 

The inspectors found that the asbestos management plan at Sun Valley "uses a number of redundant practices and procedures that prevent asbestos hazards as well as meet regulatory requirements." 

The report said that custodians, maintenance technicians and contractors are trained, made aware of and notified of places where known or suspect asbestos materials are located and warned that only accredited personnel can perform work that might disturb those materials. 

Friable materials, which represent the greatest hazard, are enclosed and sealed. The only friable asbestos in the school is insulation on steam pipes under the school, according to the report. 

The school enclosed and sealed those areas. They keep doors under lock-and-key, post warning signs and treat the areas as permit-required confined spaces. The areas are inspected periodically to make sure no unauthorized people have entered. 

"Based on the location and type of materials, enclosure and limiting access is an effective method to prevent friable asbestos from releasing fibers in the school," the report read. 

According to the report, all of the areas where materials were suspected to have mold were small (which is defined as less than 1 square feet by the EPA). 

"When the age, physical characteristics, history of roof leaks and level of preventative maintenance are considered the types, size of affected areas, locations and degree that materials have been colonized with mold growth is not unusual," the report head. 

However, the report said, any visible mold growth or odors need to be addressed by controlling moisture sources and cleaning or removing and replacing affected materials. 

The report recommended periodic cleaning and preventative maintenance to unit ventilators at the school. They found that filters are routinely changes, but fan coil unit ventilators are serviced on an "as-needed basis." 

The inspectors recommended wiping down dirty supply vanes with a detergent solution or using a backpack vacuum equipped with high-efficiency filters to remove accumulated dust, dirt and debris; cleaning accumulations of settled dust from returns on unit ventilators by vacuuming or other methods that do not release dust into the air; checking condensate pans for standing water and making sure condensate drains are free and clear of obstructions and other inspections, tests and routine service of equipment, components and controls to keep fan coil unit ventilators in good, operating condition. 

The health officials found various air-fresheners in classrooms in the older building. There is a system-wide policy prohibiting air fresheners in schools because ideally, classrooms should be odor neutral. Although, the report noted, transient odors may be unavoidable. 

If the air-fresheners were being used to mask odors, the report stated, an odor investigation may be appropriate. 

The report stated that custodians appear to be keeping the school clean, but the principles of "cleaning for health" should be reinforced. Another recommendation was to expand the existing policy on "green chemicals" to include the service of green cleaning, or cleaning for health. This is a systems-wide approach of locating, identifying, containing and removing and properly disposing of unwanted substances. 

"Green" chemicals are earth-friendly and people-friendly chemicals. 

Don Hughes, director of facilities for Union County Public Schools, said the report was what he expected. 

"We learned something that we toured with (Lipton) and we've already implementing what he suggested in his letter and we'll be implementing more," Hughes said. "But he didn't find any problems." 

Hughes said they plan to be more proactive in the future with cleaning and removing mold or other concerns. 

"It was a learning experience," Hughes said. "Nothing major was found, just a few things here and there and nothing unusual and he said the building was better that he thought it was going to be." 

Hughes said the people in his office will meet next week, after everyone reads the report and they will discuss what they can do better.