Officials say Three Oaks Senior High is safe, despite air quality results

KeepHealthCare.ORG – Officials say Three Oaks Senior High is safe, despite air quality results

Officials in charge of environmental monitoring and construction at Three Oaks Senior High School in Summerside, P.E.I. are offering assurances that the building is safe. 

There have been ongoing concerns about student health and safety at the school while it undergoes construction. And this week the province publicly released test results for both air quality and asbestos at the school, starting in March 2017. 

All of a sudden the fans came on, I guess, and blew dust everywhere. And the dust was quite thick, you could literally make a snow angel on the floor.— Billy MacKendrick

The results reveal that air quality at the school did not always meet recommended guidelines, and one day there were high asbestos readings. 

But project manager Tyler Richardson says he is not concerned, and that the school is safe. 

“We are doing … additional testing to be safe, because we are very concerned about safety, our department always is,” Richardson said.

Extra air-quality testing

Richardson said the construction at the school is following hazardous material, safety and environmental guidelines. He said environmental officials are on-site daily, making sure standards are being followed, and also doing extra air-quality tests beyond what’s required. 

Tyler Richardson says he has no concerns about student and staff safety at Three Oaks. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Some air-quality tests done last month exceeded Health Canada guidelines for particles in the air.

Richardson said unusual circumstances that day appear to have led to the high readings, and follow-up tests showed no problems. 

“We have doors being opened on the main entrance, close to where those monitors were sitting, high winds the day we tested, air coming in and blowing around, maybe even dust from the exterior,” Richardson said.

High asbestos reading

High asbestos levels were detected in surface dust last Spring, after ceiling tiles were removed improperly. 

All-Tech Environmental Services Limited, the environmental consultant for the project, says the ceiling tiles were not in a high-traffic area. Some staff used the area, but students did not.

Officials say extra efforts are being made to ensure air quality at Three Oaks meets guidelines during construction. (Laura Meader/CBC)

“It would be a low risk but again because it was found in the dust, being able to capture it right away and clean it up effectively probably helped to minimize that risk for sure,” said Larry Koughan with All-Tech Environmental Services.  

Koughan said there were no other similar problems with asbestos anywhere on the site. 

Lingering concerns

Some parents and community members are still concerned about the test results.

Volunteer basketball coach Billy MacKendrick said one day during practice, students had to leave.

“All of a sudden the fans came on, I guess, and blew dust everywhere. And the dust was quite thick, you could literally make a snow angel on the floor,” MacKendrick said. 

Volunteer basketball coach Billy MacKendrick says he’s still concerned about air quality at Three Oaks Senior High School. (Laura Meader/CBC)Questions in the House

Concerns around student safety were also brought up in the Legislature on Wednesday. The Opposition asked why information about air quality conditions and asbestos contamination wasn’t shared with families sooner. 

PC Leader James Aylward pointed to statements made in the past two weeks by the minister of transportation suggesting air quality results were always within Health Canada guidelines. 

“You knew the facts and you actually hid the facts,” said Aylward. “Now, students and staff are getting sick because of it. Minister: Wouldn’t you say that’s the very definition of negligence?”

But minister Paula Biggar accused the Tories of “scaring people” by raising questions about the school’s safety, and said she was having to correct “misinformation” circulated by the Opposition. 

Testing will continue

Officials said regular tests will continue to make sure health guidelines are followed. 

The project is expected to be 75 per cent complete by September, with construction projected to be finished by February 2019.

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