Federal agency to investigate mold complaints at school

BY MICHAEL ERB, The Island Packet
Other stories by Michael Erb
Published Tuesday, February 4th, 2003

Representatives from a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be at Hilton Head Elementary School this week to survey teachers and test air quality.

The team from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is responding to teacher complaints about work safety, Mary Briggs, executive principal of Hilton Head Elementary, said Monday. The inspectors will be at the school Wednesday through Friday.

Briggs said she did not know how many of the school's 170 teachers had contacted the center.

Fred Blosser, spokesman for the occupational safety group, said the division only investigates complaints signed by at least three employees. He did not say how many Hilton Head Elementary employees contacted the center.

It is also unclear when the complaint was filed. Blosser would not say when the division was first contacted, but Briggs said it was her understanding it had been filed "prior to the holidays."

In September, AAA Environmental, a Spartanburg-based air quality testing company hired by the school district, cited 12 rooms as "areas of concern" because of high levels of mold. Work began in November to remove mold and debris from those rooms.

Seven of the rooms -- five in the Yellow Building and two in the Blue Building -- reopened at the beginning of January. Mold removal in the five other rooms -- a Yellow Building wing containing four kindergarten rooms and a media center -- was finished recently, with contractors now replacing ceiling and floor tiles and ductwork in the heating and air-conditioning systems in those rooms.

AAA also has continued air quality tests in the rest of the three buildings. A report on those finding is expected sometime this week, Pam Smith, president of the company, said Monday.

The school district has spent nearly $500,000 for mold removal at the elementary school, which includes AAA's $100,000 contract.

Blosser said the occupational safety group's investigation could take several weeks to months depending on what they find and the nature of employees' complaints. The group will issue a report and recommendations once the investigation is finished.

Blosser said the group did not have the authority to take any action against a school, but would turn over its findings to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a separate federal agency.


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