Insulation is source of mold at Waverly Air-duct moisture faulted for school contamination

September 20, 1996|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,SUN STAFF

The source of the moldlike contamination that forced Baltimore officials to close Waverly Elementary School on the eve of the school year is moisture-laden insulation inside the building's air ducts, school officials said yesterday.

"The breakdown of operation of the air-conditioning system during the course of the summer and the insulation inside of the duct lines are the cause," Wilbur C. Giles, director of school facilities, told the school board last night.

Officials hope to allow the North Baltimore school's 550 pupils and teaching staff to return to the building Oct. 7, he said.

By that date, officials said, new insulation and carpets will be installed, the exterior and interior of the school will be clean, health inspections will be complete, and the building should be safe for students and staff.

Board members asked for assurance that the problem will not reoccur.

Giles replied that removal of the insulation, a thorough cleaning of the ducts and building, and improved maintenance should prevent a reoccurrence.

Most modern insulation is wrapped outside air-conditioning ducts, he said. The type at Waverly lined the ducts, absorbing moisture as the air conditioner went on and off, Giles said.

The humid conditions created inside the ducts allowed the mold to thrive, Giles said, and by the time it was discovered, "the insulation was completely black."

Building officials suspect that when the ventilation system was operating, the mold became airborne and moved throughout the building.

Books and carpets affected have been destroyed, and furniture and walls have been scrubbed by contractors experienced in removing microbiological contamination, Giles said.

Samples tested by a microbiologist and sent to a lab for identification had not been returned by yesterday.

"We are checking to see if we have this type of insulation in other schools," Giles said.

Some school staffs have called to report cases of molds but "we haven't found anything quite like this," he said.

Waverly's classes began Sept. 9 with students and teachers bused daily to Greenspring Middle School, where Waverly Principal Te-Veria B. Lee said teachers are working in makeshift classrooms created in space formerly used for storage.

Pub Date: 9/20/96

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