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Update: Environmental consultant addresses school’s mold concern

UPDATE (9:45 p.m.): At Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting, Riverhead Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez addressed concerns over the presence of mold discovered at Aquebogue Elementary School over the weekend.

“Air testing has shown that there is no airborne mold concern in any space at Aquebogue,” she reassured about a dozen community members at the meeting.

Ed McGuire of JC Broderick & Associates, the district’s environmental consulting firm, shared information on the issue during the meeting.

“It’s not just a mold problem, it’s a moisture problem,” Mr. McGuire said.

The first step, he said, was identifying the source of the moisture in the K-4 school.

High humidity in Aquebogue likely caused condensation to form across surfaces in the school, which allowed a minor amount of mold to grow on surfaces, he said.

“Unfortunately, it is the outside environment,” he added. “Not much can be done to control it so it becomes a maintenance issue” for the custodial and maintenance staff.

They have been instructed to clean mold using Virex II 256, a nontoxic disinfectant cleaner.

According to Mr. McGuire, the testing procedure involved taking mold counts of the interior of the school and comparing it to the outdoor environment.

“We want to make sure that the indoor levels are not significantly higher than outdoor levels,” he said.

The analysts were investigating whether the mold found in the school was consistent with types of naturally occuring mold found in the environment. Mr. McGuire said that if a different type of mold is found inside, it could indicate a larger problem that would need to be addressed.

Testing performed in all classrooms and communal spaces like the library and gymnasium Monday all showed “similar results” to outdoor conditions, he said.

Mr. McGuire said the firm was battling mold issues in nearly two dozen school buildings across Long Island.

“This August and September have been unusually hot and humid for a prolonged period of time,” he said. “It just hasn’t given up.”

When asked by board member Greg Meyer about the cleaning protocol, Mr. McGuire said the custodial staff should continue identifying mold on a “space by space basis,” and subsequently cleaning it, especially during periods of high heat and humidity followed by rain.

Original story: High temperatures and humidity over the past few weeks have led to mold and mildew issues at Aquebogue Elementary School, district officials said in a statement Tuesday.

The excess moisture has resulted in mildew odors and mold found on building surfaces, according to a statement from Phil Kent, the school’s principal, and superintendent Dr. Aurelia Henriquez. The statement was posted on the district’s website and in a robocall message to parents.

At the direction of JC Broderick and Associates, Inc., the district’s environmental consulting firm, the facilities staff has replaced ceiling tiles in affected areas and thoroughly cleaned surface areas using Virex II 256, a nontoxic disinfectant cleaner.

“We have been assured by JC Broderick and Associates that this occurrence is not unique to Riverhead or Aquebogue, especially with the severity of the weather,” the statement reads.

According to the statement, the cleaner is used in healthcare facilities to kill a “broad spectrum of microorganisms.”

Samples were collected and tested by the consultants.

“We have been informed that there is no airborne mold concern and our building has been deemed clean and safe for occupancy,” Mr. Kent and Dr. Henriquez said.

Students in kindergarten through fourth-grade returned to their classrooms Wednesday after a two-day recess for Rosh Hashanah.

Employees of the school told RiverheadLOCAL that ceiling tiles have been replaced in classrooms in the past and water has leaked through the ceiling before.

The district did not go into detail about the extent of ceiling tile replacements needed.

The school, which was built in 1929, underwent an extensive renovation starting in 2012.

Those improvements included replacing the ventilation system and parts of the roof, according to BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers, who worked on the project.

The $3.8 million voter-approved project also saw interior improvements including a new kitchen, new reading, math and physical therapy rooms and a new faculty room.

Photo caption: Ed McGuire of JC Broderick & Associates speaks at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting. (Credit: Tara Smith)

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