Thursday, May 27, 2010

South Shore Report Out

You know you really have to look carefully at the SPS home page. Things change but with no notation so you try to check every time you visit it.

So under What's News! there is a South Shore Update and a Family Survey story. I'll go with the Family Survey since its shorter. The opening line, very entertaining:

Hearing from our families, staff, and students is critical to our efforts to improve education for every student.

They say they have "redesigned" the school climate survey which is given to all students, school staff and families. Summary results will be in the annual district and school reports next fall. Surveys were to start on Monday via phone or web survey. Did anyone get an elementary or middle school one yet? I have a call into Research and Evaluation (run by one of our very own former Broad residents) to ask why this kind of info wasn't part of the survey. It's nice to know what it is for before you participate.

Onto South Shore. So there's a letter to the South Shore community as well as the report from the company investigating the odor issue. From the letter to the community:

"These results do not indicate a health hazard from airborne exposure to the VOCs including those likely from carpet/mastic breakdown products, aldehydes, or particulates. Toxicity would occur only at concentrations that are order of magnitude (10x or more) higher than were found at the time of our investigation." The report concludes "Some building occupants have experienced odors from building materials in the school leading to discomfort. However, based on the findings herein, there is no evidence of sufficient concentrations of airborne organic compounds or particulates that would cause acute or chronic toxicity."

The report states that they are working to determine the cause of the odor (and it seems its the carpet/concrete mix). They will likely have to remove it (but they do not state from how many areas). There is no mold problem.

"Our goal remains to have the South Shore building ready for occupancy on the first day of school in September."

Of course the company may say is not a health hazard but clearly it affected some staff and students. The report also states "Complaints occurred in other rooms after spring break, during which the ventilation system was shut down for maintenance." Really? Yet another brand-new school with ventilation issues? How could it need maintenance so soon after the building opened?

6 comments:

John J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
grousefinder said...

Having read dozens of these reports over the years I will summarize the toxicology report: "It's all in your head man, you are just imagining the discomfort."

Now...here is what they did not examine: Cross-contamination of pool exhaust from the adjacent facility. For example, combustion or heating of chlorine/bromine gas/vapor across Outside Air pre-heating exchangers. It only takes a calm day and slight North wind to shift that pool exhaust into the building. Or, is the pool static pressure positive relative to the adjoining school (I think they are connected via a breezeway).

BTW...who inspected the air plenums for VOC's? I did not see it in the report. Is the ductwork lined with insulation...glued to the sheet metal? Is the duct board decomposing? Are the unit ventilators off gassing volatiles? None of this seems to be in the report. In fact, very little about HVAC design issues is addressed.

Public institutions almost always tell employees that the Indoor Air Quality problems are in their head. This is typical. However, there is always a cause when there is an effect in the realm of Indoor Air Quality. If I were running this show...(which I am not)...I would ask a hundred more questions starting with the Air Balance Logs. Then, I would call Seattle Parks and Recreation to get the Air Balance Logs from the Rainier Beach Pool. And, I would take air samples of the air plenums with the HVAC off to determine if the duct-board was off-gassing.

Charlie Mas said...

See the post on the survey for an update.

As for the SouthShore report, I'm horrified by it. They seem to be saying that if the toxicity isn't enough to cause permanent damage then everyone should just tolerate it.

Great. How about they move their offices into the building?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Grousefinder, would it be okay to send your comments to the Board? Because if they take out the carpet and replace it and move everyone back in and ...it doesn't work? What then? Maybe better to spend a little more making sure the issues you bring up are addressed (they sound valid to me).

I had advocated for the district to wait on this building and do it jointly with the City on the belief that since they are adjoining buildings, it might help.

grousefinder said...

Go ahead and ventilate to the Board Melissa (pardon the pun)...

BTW...I saw this "can't find it scenario" once before where the fiberglass duct board began decomposing right after installation. When the fans were running the lab samples could not capture volatiles due to the dilution by OSA. And, they did not sample in the plenums so they missed it for months. Finally, we cut the duct open to find the gooey mess inside.

From what I read, this report is only about 50% of what needs to happen. For example, if the building has a negative static pressure, you can suck all kinds of gasses right out of the walls, ceiling spaces, brick, and from outside. Is the building negative? When is it negative? Nobody is talking or looking.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The Family Survey uses the e-mail/phone number to track what school it comes from (of course, if you have kids at two different high schools, they won't know which one you are talking about). They didn't include comments because it would have been a large volume of work but it's something to think about in the future