After years of complaints from teachers about foul odors at Estancia High School’s science wing, a consultant’s air-quality report says the area is safe for use.
Daniel Ginsborg, chief executive of Arcadia-based Executive Environmental, shared the main findings of the 11,525-page report Tuesday night during the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board meeting.
The report, which includes a timeline of hydrogen sulfide testing, the number of repairs and before-and-after photos, will be available on the district website, nmusd.us, officials said.
The testing came after teachers and others voiced health concerns about sewer-like odors coming from the walls and sinks of classrooms in the science wing following a modernization project completed in 2008. Inspections revealed several uncapped sewer lines.
District trustees in October approved additional monitoring at the Costa Mesa school with “more sensitive equipment” that could identify odors before a person could smell them.
During the consultant’s study completed in January, Ginsborg said, odors were reported in a span of three days but were found to be unrelated to hydrogen sulfide, a colorless, hazardous gas that produces a smell like rotten eggs and is often associated with sewage systems. It’s common to smell odors in buildings for other reasons, Ginsborg added.
To help keep fluids in science classrooms from creating odors, Ginsborg suggested that heating, cooling and ventilation dampers remain open and that fans be turned on for at least an hour before the school day starts and an hour after it ends.
Vents should be checked after any power outage or transition from daylight saving time and whenever the system is serviced, Ginsborg said. If an odor returns, the district should contact Executive Environmental again, he said.
During the recent winter recess, district staff and the consultant capped the remaining unsealed pipes in five areas, including the boys’ locker room, and reviewed all the plumbing plans.
Acid neutralization tanks in classrooms were cleaned and will be inspected monthly if there is a consistent problem, said Tim Marsh, district administrative director of facilities and support services.
Britt Dowdy, president of Newport-Mesa’s teachers union, commended the district for going “above and beyond” in inspections but reminded trustees that a lot of the testing occurred after the “worst part of smells.”
Dowdy spoke on behalf of Estancia High science teacher Stephen Crenshaw, who contended that the pungent odors affected his health and forced him to go on medical leave.
“There are moments in history we didn’t know what the thresholds were,” Dowdy said. “That had been ongoing for a number of years, and there are concerns about that.”
Crenshaw said in an interview Wednesday that he recently returned to Estancia but still suffers from migraines, though he isn’t sure whether that’s related to the odors or to previous health issues. He’s gotten used to dealing with it, he said.