By Benjamin Cirillo/Staff writer
A report released by an environmental consulting firm hired by St. Charles Community Unit School District 303 has declared Anderson School environmentally safe, although recommendations were made to improve environmental quality.
“It’s very good news,” said Anderson Principal Jeffrey Hildreth on the report by the Chicago-based Carnow, Conibear and Associates. “I think the staff was very satisfied with the thoroughness of the investigation. Parents were satisfied (also) with the investigation.”
District 303 officials have already begun work to replace a carpet in the teacher’s lounge where mold spores were found, and will implement all of CCA’s other housekeeping and maintenance-related recommendations, said Brett Smith, District 303 director of facilities. Hildreth said the carpeting will be replaced by August.
The report recommended improved maintenance measures to address complaints of dustiness, temperature extremes and dampness. The school’s heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system has already been upgraded, Hildreth said, and “the air quality has significantly improved.”
CCA was hired in January to investigate health and air quality concerns by some Anderson staff and parents, including whether the school’s occupants had suffered an abnormally high rate of cancer.
According to the report, completed in late June, “There is no evidence of excess cancer cases among the staff or students at Anderson School.”
The report also said asthma and upper-respiratory complaints could be explained by housekeeping, design and operating factors the school is working to correct.
Hildreth said an open fan was bringing warm air into contact with cooler air, causing moisture in the system. CCA found the problem and Servicemaster, the district’s maintenance consultants, repaired the problem.
“(CCA) really found some things that have improved the building,” Hildreth said. “And Servicemaster has really responded quickly. Having them around has really helped our response time.”
During its investigation, CCA also discovered what at first appeared to be the presence of Picloram, a herbicide, in the school’s water. Later tests showed the initial results to be false.
“The drinking water at Anderson School has met quality requirements. The drinking water is, and has been, safe to drink,” according to the report. “Concerns about possible elevated levels of Picloram in the drinking water were unfounded.”
With one exception, all soil tests were normal. In one area, an elevated level of one type of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon (PNA) was found, probably caused by periodic outdoor trash burning that occurred in the area years ago. However, the report stated “it is extremely unlikely that there is a risk to health from the presence of PNA in the soil. Nevertheless, prudence dictates that the contaminated soil should be removed.”
The contaminated soil will be removed this summer when the septic tank is removed. The school plans to connect with the city’s sewer system.