Envirotech cleaning up mold at Cambridge grade school

Sandy Hull
Employees with Envirotech start cleaning some of the items from the Cambridge Elementary School Tuesday morning, Aug. 3. Envirotech will be working two 12-hour shifts of employees five days a week until the clean-up is done. If the project continues after school starts, employees will only work when the school is empty.

    Cambridge School Board members and administrators got a bit of a shock two weeks ago.

    While looking over some of the geothermal project which is nearing completion, they discovered a black substance on the ceiling above some of the drop ceilings in some of the classrooms at the Cambridge Elementary School and decided to find out what it was.

    After sending off a sample to Emlabs, it came back as black mold.

    “As soon as we heard, we contacted an Environmental specialist, Environmental Consultants, LLC of Collinsville, and found out what needed to be done,” stated Tom Akers, superintendent of Cambridge Schools. “We met with them for the first time Friday, July 23, and put a game plan into action.”

    The company contacted six different groups who do mold abatement for

bids which four bid on the job. The bids were due by Friday, July 30, at 10 a.m. Companies bidding on the job were from the St. Louis and Springfield area.

    During an emergency special board meeting, the board authorized Envirotech of St. Louis to handle the mold abatement. Abatement began Tuesday, Aug. 3.

    The company the school went with specializes in mold abatement and is suppose to be very aggressive and has great success rates.

    “There was never a question in our mind, the board or administrators, that we would not remove it,” stated Shelly Logston, Cambridge Elementary School principal. “Our primary focus is safety and we want to make sure we have the safest learning environment possible.”

    Some classrooms don’t have any, while some classrooms have just a little and there were a few classrooms that were covered according to Logston.

    Each affected classroom will be completely emptied out with every item in the classroom cleaned with a special type of chemical cloth. After the room is empty, the room will be encapsulated and then a thick white plastic covering will be used to seal the room from ceiling to floor, allowing no opportunity for anything to escape.

    Then the company will use  chemicals and air to break it down and a machine will be located in the room sucking it up as it does. Then the room will be fogged, a process which is used to seal the ceiling.

    After everything is cleaned an air quality sample will be taken inside and outside to determine the air quality. 

    “The air quality inside the school will be better than the air quality outside of the school,” stated Logston. “The mold that was found inside the building cannot grow outside so passing the air quality tests will assure that.”

    If it does not  pass, another cleaning will be done until it does pass, according to Logston. After it passes, new tile will be installed where the old tile hung.

    If a room is carpeted, the carpet will also be cleaned with a special solution.

    The basement classrooms, hallways, entry ways, kindergarten rooms, along with a few other rooms and gym were mold free. Sixteen of the 29 rooms in the building were affected.

    “The cleaning company will be running two or three crews, two 12-hour shifts a day,” said Logston. “It is our hope all this will be completed before the beginning of the school year, but if not, we have been reassured the school will be safe for students to return. The affected rooms will remain sealed off and only be abated when students are not in the building.”

    As far as the geothermal project, work is continuing and unaffected rooms will be up and running at the beginning of the school year. The affected rooms will not be hooked up until they are determined free and clear.

    The Environmental Consultants, LLC will be working closely with the Envirotech making sure everything is being done that is necessary.

    “Everyone is probably wondering where the district is coming up with the money to have this project completed,” said Akers. “The district carries mold insurance as part of a pollution liability coverage along with probably every district in the area.”

    Even though a majority of the project will be covered through the insurance, the school district has a $50,000 deductible which will be paid out of the health life safety funds not the operation funds. The project could cost up to $300,000, which includes all of the new tiles.

    According to Environmental Consultants, LLC mold in a school is not an uncommon thing. Mold problems are also common in big box stores and more.

    In the meanwhile, parents and students need to be patient. The elementary school registration has been moved to the gym at the high school. The unpack your bookbag night has also been cancelled because of the work. An open house for Cambridge Elementary will be scheduled this fall.

    “When this open house occurs, the entire community will be invited to attend the newest geothermal building in the area and it will also be one of the cleanest,” stated Logston.        

An employee of Envirotech of St. Louis works in the Cambridge Elementary School office to prepare it for removal of black mold on Tuesday morning, Aug. 3. The company specializes in mold abatement and is also working in the Cordova area.