“It’s impossible to see it all,” said Popp, “and it likely will be in different stages of its lifecycle. Sometimes, you can see mold, but the air samples are fine — it’s not an absolute test. Mold is a lot like a dandelion seedpod. The wind blows, and the seeds go all over. Mold is very similar.
Mold spores get into the air in different ways. Sometimes it is by moving furniture or cleaning, other times it moves and grows as it matures.”
Mold on a wooden door. Tim Popp said if you are looking for mold, start looking at things that are at a four-foot level and below.
Knowing where to look can be significantly helpful. Popp explained that water vapor sinks. “So, if you are looking for mold, start looking at things that are at a four-foot level and below,” said Popp.
Tim Popp is Vice President of Consulting at TTI Environmental Inc., a company often called in by school districts and other public entities to assess and conduct testing for industrial hygiene, asbestos, lead, and mold, among other issues.
In a recent issue of NJASBO’s KeyStone Newsletter, Tim Popp addressed dealing with mold in schools.
“School buildings are prime areas for mold growth,” said Popp. “They have a lot of food sources and are susceptible to elevated humidity levels caused by the changing environment in New Jersey.”
He said essentially there are two ways school districts typically develop a mold situation:
- A water intrusion event (roof leak or a broken pipe, etc.)
- Humidity/Water Vapor
“Most school districts are really good at dealing with water intrusion problems,” said Popp, “they can see it. With humidity issues, it’s much more difficult, and it’s harder to detect and manage. There were so many districts that had mold issues from humidity this year.”
Popp said there are some keys to recognizing mold situations before they become advanced. “Is there an odor? Does the room, hallway, etc., smell like a musty basement,” asked Popp? “Then there likely is the beginning of a potential mold issue.”
HAVE A PLAN AND BE PREPARED
Popp suggests the first thing to do is to educate yourself and your staff. “There is a lot of really good information out there,” said Popp. He noted that the EPA Tools for Schools outlines everything and has good checklists that can help districts. “The advice from the EPA is to get everyone in the district involved in indoor air quality — mold falls under that category — including administrators, board members, staff, teachers, parents, etc.,” said Popp. “Everyone should get together to review the materials and identify, as a group, the potential issues in the district. The EPA checklists are great. You can make them simple and appropriate for your district.”
- Popp said creating a list of those items that need to be improved is critical. “It enables the district to budget for things that they can do without spending a lot of money.”
Popp said districts typically have a consultant come in and do an initial inspection. He or she will evaluate the condition, ask questions to help determine the potential cause, and note any visual signs of mold. If you get results that are not good, explained Popp, sometimes it is necessary to go back and expand the investigation to other areas. He said the consultant will then develop the mold remediation workplan, which includes directions on what needs to be done, how it should be treated, and what it will take for it to be considered cleared.
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