by Henry Brean, Pahrump Valley Times
August 24, 2002
But levels at Gabbs, Round Mountain low compared to other areas
BEATTY – Toxic mold spores like the ones that shut down Pahrump Valley High have been discovered at three more Nye County schools, but apparently not in significant enough quantities to warrant more closures. The toxic mold in question is Stachybotrys chartarum. It turned up in samples taken last month at the K-12 school in Gabbs and at the K-6 and 7-12 schools in Round Mountain.
As a result, two bathrooms have been shut down at Gabbs School while a modular classroom remains off limits at Round Mountain Elementary. The good news, according to interim Supt. Rod Pekarek, is that the northern Nye County schools where mold has been detected share one common denominator: "Very low counts of stachy in the air compared to what we’ve seen other places. Very low." It was the presence of high concentrations of Stachybotrys chartarum that prompted the district to evacuate the main building at PVHS on Jan. 23. The building was closed for clean up and repair until April 8. The small amounts of toxic mold found in the cafeteria and kitchen at Gabbs School and in the office and conference room at Round Mountain Junior/Senior High have already been cleaned up.
Removal work has also been done in the two restrooms at Gabbs, but they remain closed pending post-remediation testing. Maintenance and Operations Supervisor Don Brod told school board members April 17 that, on the advice of the industrial hygienist that has been working with the district on mold issues, those contaminated areas in Round Mountain and Gabbs "needed to be dealt with immediately." In the case of the modular classroom at Round Mountain Elementary, that could mean demolition. Brod said extensive roof and wall repairs would be needed to clean the modular. He estimated the cost of that work at $50,000 to $60,000, nearly as much as the district paid for the last new modular classroom building it purchased several years ago. "I guess the burning question is, is it really worth doing all of that?" Pekarek said. The building is not used as a regular classroom but as a place for students to go when they need remediation in a particular subject. School officials apparently will be directed to explore ways the school can operate without the modular for the rest of the school year. The modular might be replaced with a new one in the future.
Brod said Monday that he is "looking into that right now." Every district school and office has been inspected for mold, Pekarek said. Brod is getting ready to conduct mold-awareness training for all district custodians and maintenance personnel. They will be instructed in the identification mold hazards, and they will also be taught the importance of fixing leaks and repairing water damage quickly so mold does not have a chance to grow. Meanwhile, repairs and preventative measures continue across the district. Projects include major water diversion work at PVHS and roof repairs at Beatty Elementary School, Tonopah Elementary/Middle School and the district office in Tonopah.
The district found out about the drainage problems at PVHS the hard way in 1997, when floodwaters drained in the gym at the eastern end of the school. The flooding destroyed the wood floor in the gym and apparently prompted many of the mold problems that were discovered early this year. Pekarek advised Brod to get going on the diversion work "quickly, because El Ni?o is coming. "Any kind of flood damage in there and we’re right back to square one. Let’s not wait." This afternoon, Brod is slated to open bids on extensive roof repairs at Hafen and J.G. Johnson elementary schools in Pahrump. The work will be done over the summer.
Brod ended last week’s mold discussion by noting that roof leaks are not just a problem at older buildings. Leaks have been discovered at the district’s two newest facilities – Rosemary Clarke Middle School and the bus yard in Pahrump – but they were caught early enough to avoid any serious water damage, Brod said.