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ECM: Mold No Problem in Five Warwick Vets Classrooms

[CREDIT: File Photo] Warwick Veterans Jr. High School at 2401 W Shore Road.

[CREDIT: File Photo] Warwick Veterans Jr. High School at  2401 W Shore Rd,
[CREDIT: File Photo] Warwick Veterans Jr. High School at 2401 W Shore Rd,
WARWICK, R.I. — The Warwick School Committee started off with some good news on mold testing at five Warwick Veterans Middle School classrooms Tuesday night, but critics in the audience were skeptical of the test’s scope, timing and conditions.

Daniel Simas, General Manager at ECM Environmental and Consulting Management in Riverside, R.I., told the board that his team had tested five classrooms inside the school on a Saturday, May 13, with the heat off. Public speakers at the end of the School Committee’s meeting took issue with the small number of classrooms tested, and the conditions under which the tests occurred.

The tests, which screened for all mold species, as well as dander,  were conducted following months of health complaints from students and their parents, who reported respiratory troubles and headaches during their time inside the building, recently converted from a high school to a junior high school as part of the school consolidation process.

ECM used direct reading instruments to test levels of temperature, relative humidity, carbon monoxide/dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), hydrogen sulfide, and oxygen. The survey also included the collection of five non-viable fungal air samplers, using a sticky surface or a filter for direct microscopic examination.

School Director of Buildings and Grounds Steven Gothberg said the rooms tested were, as best he could tell, where the majority of the complaints were coming from, and were also distributed throughout the building.

“So it was a good section, at a reasonable cost for the testing,” Gothberg said.

Simas said the mold counts in the tested classrooms were below that found outdoors. He said that’s a strong indicator of the lack of a mold problem in those areas, since mold exists indoors and outdoors, and the amount inside the school was less than they could find outside the building in the open environment. An area with elevated mold counts would be above that found outside the building, he said.

According to ECM’s report, a sample with more than 10,000 spores/m3 is considered elevated, requiring steps to reduce counts. The highest spore count detected was 133/m3.

Upon questioning by School Committee member David Testa, Simas said the testing in the five classrooms is a good indicator of mold conditions throughout the building. He said elevated mold counts elsewhere in the building would’ve been revealed by testing in the five sample areas, since such low readings would be unlikely with elevated mold levels anywhere in the school.

Judy Cobden, a survivor of air contamination at the World Trade Center following the Sept. 11 attacks, spoke against the timing, thoroughness and conditions of the tests.

“It was pretty upsetting to me that ECM tested only five classrooms in such a huge school,” Cobden said.

Also, she said, company employees conducted the test while the heating system, a suspected cause of contaminants in the air inside the school had been shut off. Cobden reminded the School Committee that the Warwick School Administration had recommended that the district wait for warmer weather to conduct the tests, as well. She said it’s therefore interesting that he temperature in the rooms ranged at times from 67.6 and 67.8 degrees F in the building. She also criticized the failure to test behind ceiling tiles, where mold is suspected to be harboring.

“This is what the administration wanted. It left the heating system out of play,” she said, and failed to focus on areas suspected to be harboring mold.

“This report may be accurate for what it is, but it is not accurate for what our kids have been exposed to for this school year and the coming year,” Cobden said. ECM Mold Results page 5 ECM mold test top ECM bottom

Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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