Full Miller-Driscoll IAQ report released to The Bulletin

Two rooms in the Miller-Driscoll School building just barely failed to meet ASHRAE standards for CO2 levels, according to tests performed by TRC in March.

In a report made available to The Bulletin Monday, the company maintains the Miller-Driscoll school is safe for use.

Those two rooms — labeled N-14 and S-7 — showed levels just slightly higher than the maximum recommendation for the school, 1088.

N-14 was recorded at 1,159 ppm, while S-7 was recorded at 1,177 ppm.

A copy of the full analysis of Miller-Driscoll’s indoor air quality by TRC was made available to The Bulletin Monday afternoon in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The full document can be viewed here: Miller Driscoll IAQ Report 4-28-14.

Though he did not specifically reference the terms S-7 or N-14 during last week’s meeting of the Board of Education, TRC’s lead investigator, Martin Lewis, said numbers such as those found in the two rooms are not uncommon, or unsafe.

Explaining why levels are sometimes higher than the ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers) recommendations, Mr. Lewis said when he tested the music room at Miller-Driscoll, it initially showed a normal level.

“We exhale carbon dioxide, which is one thing we measure, and right after I got done sampling [the empty music room], 48 people walked in there and started performing — of course, very aerobic and exhaling quite rapidly,” he said.

“We took another sample right after that and it went up to almost 1,100-1,200. It was a spike.”

Mr. Lewis said after the group left the music room, the level went back down to background levels.

“It shows you that things can change very quickly. The other area we saw that in was the gymnasium, where they were very aerobic; a lot of exhaling,” said Mr. Lewis.

“The numbers spiked there, of course, and the carbon dioxide levels changed five minutes later.”

Mr. Lewis said levels of 1,100-1,200 are above ambient levels, but that does not mean the average IAQ levels for the school will be that high.

“Again, these are just snapshots of five- to 10-minute periods,” Mr. Lewis explained to the Board of Education. “The time-weighted average is going to be a much lower number.”

Other aspects of IAQ

The report states baseline air samples for comfort and safety were well within accepted standards of acceptable indoor air quality.

“The baseline air sampling results for comfort parameters of temperature, CO, CO2, total particulates and relative humidity all were within recommended guidelines for schools, noting schools in the northeast region typically have low relative humidity (RH) levels during colder months.”

The recommended guidelines compared to Miller-Driscoll’s results were OSHA and AHSRAE for CO2; ACGIH, OSHA, and NAAQS for carbon monoxide; ASHRAE for temperature; and ACGIH, ASHRAE, and EPA for total dust.

However, the company’s standards for determining what it called typical counts of mold spores in the school was unclear.

In its report, TRC said there exists no federal or state guideline for acceptable or hazardous spore counts, but the company believes the amount of spores found in the building were within acceptable levels based on what it called “relative level/type comparisons and professional judgments of concentrations compared to ‘typical’ and ambient levels.”

Not buying it

Regardless of these results, out-spoken Wilton parent Marissa Lowthert continues to call for a re-test of the building, claiming TRC’s results should be taken with a grain of salt.

“Law firms hire TRC when their clients are being sued for indoor air quality issues,” she said in a recent email when explaining why the company was not on a list of acceptable companies compiled by her organization, Parents for Responsible Education (PRE).

Mr. Lowthert claims the Board of Education hired TRC because it knew the company would give the board the “results they wanted,” as a firm that specializes in indoor air quality complaint mitigation.

In an email sent by Ms. Lowthert on Monday afternoon, she said “Months ago [my organization] called for independent testing by a ‘Parent Approved Testing Company’. We sent [the Boards of Education, Finance, and Selectmen] articles of prior IAQ scandals in Westport and Fairfield. In those Towns, their Boards of Education did exactly what Wilton’s Board of Education did: they had previously received bad reports, so they hired a testing company that gave them the results they wanted, but not the truth the parents demanded or students/teachers deserved.”

Martin Lewis, senior EHS project manager, said by email last week he stands behind his company and rejects Ms. Lowthert’s accusations.

“TRC stands by the results of our testing and our professional interpretation of these results with regard to the Miller-Driscoll School. All testing at the school was completed in conformance with established industry standards and guidelines. We are an independent consulting/testing firm hired by the Wilton Board of Education because we have extensive experience in indoor air quality and radon testing, and a sterling reputation for professionalism and performance of our services,” he said.

Testing procedures

The IAQ testing consisted of visual inspections of the spaces, as well as air sampling that includes direct instrument readings of comfort level parameters, such as:

• Temperature;

• Carbon monoxide;

• Carbon dioxide;

• Total particulates;

• Relative humidity.

“These were five- to 10-minute samples taken in each one of the rooms,” said Mr. Lewis.

TRC surveyed accessible occupied rooms and hallways within the school and compared the indoor levels to ambient outside locations.

Mr. Lewis said over 120 locations were sampled at Miller-Driscoll.

“My expertise is basically looking at airborne contaminants and what is being emitted into the air and what are the conditions of the building, and that includes mold,” Mr. Lewis told the board.

Mr. Lewis said that while he didn’t see or smell mold in any of the sampled rooms, he did see some water intrusion.

In addition to the baseline air sampling, Mr. Lewis told the board that spore trap air samples were also collected for microbial analysis.

Mr. Lewis said there weren’t any spaces he felt should have been tested that weren’t.

“There might have been a locked room that might have been used for special resources or something like that, but we tested rooms that were right adjacent to it and we didn’t see many rooms — maybe one or two — that were locked and inaccessible,” he told the board.

— Additional reporting by Kendra Baker