HVAC improvements expected to eliminate mold threat in Ocean City schools

Written on: July 10, 2013 by ICM

Written by Ann RichardsonWednesday, July 10, 2013 12:00 am
File photo / A ServPro truck is parked in front of Ocean City High School on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012. ServPro was hired to remediate mold found in various areas of the school last year.
OCEAN CITY — Mold is an ongoing issue for school districts across South Jersey, including Ocean City. Last year, an extremely humid summer caused mold to form in numerous school buildings, including Ocean City High School.
Tom Oves, chairman of the Ocean City Board of Education’s buildings and grounds committee, said the school district is on top of the mold issue. School officials have nailed down the cause of mold formation at OCHS last September and the problem should not be repeated this summer, he said.
“There was a design flaw in the HVAC system,” he said, which was designed to sense high humidity. “It did not trigger, which caused the mold to form. We had an unusual weather pattern, very high humidity, but it never got over 80 degrees.
“The system has been set up so that temperature was the controlling factor, not the humidity.”
Oves said humidistats will now allow officials to check both the temperature and the humidity. The HVAC system was also upgraded to make humidity a factor in its operation.
Common surface mold was discovered in the auditorium and several classrooms, which closed the school for one day on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 initiating a three-day cleanup. School district officials then launched a thorough check of the district’s other two school buildings. All the samples for the other buildings came back clean.
The common surface mold grew undetected over the long, humid Labor Day weekend when the building was not in use. Mold was discovered in the auditorium and conference room on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012 after staff members returned to the building. Mold was later discovered in six classrooms, the music room and the art room that day.
Oves said school officials took immediate action to remediate the mold, with the assistance of Coastal Environmental Compliance of Hammonton and ServPro, a remediation firm.
The building was open on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012 for the first day of school with the affected areas closed to students, but after mold was discovered under the cafeteria tables later in the day, the building was closed the following day, and remediation work commenced.  The building was reopened Monday, Sept. 10.
Most of the cost of cleanup, which Oves said was “very expensive,” was covered by insurance.