The Roanoke, Va., City Public School system is contesting recent OSHA citations issued following the discovery of lead-paint chips and dust stirred up during renovation work at an elementary school.
|This NBC-news affiliate video was posted in February while investigation at the Highland Park Elementary school was under way.|
The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Occupational Safety and Health Division (VOSH) issued two “serious” citations against the school district following an investigation of the Highland Park Elementary School, conducted earlier this year.
The state agency provided Durability + Design with a summary copy of the alleged citations, which carry no penalty fines.
First, the school district was cited for “failing to maintain all surfaces as free as practicable of the accumulations of lead above the drop ceilings on all floors.”
The second citation said the school district “failed to select and provide the building manager with a vacuum equipped with HEPA filters.”
As the case is still open, no other documents were released. The state agency said it also investigated Varney Inc., the contractor hired by the school district to perform the work, but the case closed with no citations issued.
Officials said they could not release the Varney case file.
In an email response to D+D inquiries, Roanoke City Public School Deputy Superintendent Curt Baker said, “Roanoke City Public Schools is contesting in its entirety the citation issued.”
Baker, however, did not comment on any future plans the school district may have in place, including any possible lead testing of students.
According to local-area news reports, workers discovered the lead-paint chips and dust in a drop ceiling in December 2011 while installing heating and air conditioning system at the school. See: Roanoke elementary school investigated by OSHA.
Reports also indicated that a fine layer of dust accumulated on desks and other surfaces throughout the 100-year-old school building while the work was under way.
The Roanoke Times reported that at least six Highland Park teachers complained of health problems—including shortness of breath, fatigue, nasal congestion and itchy eyes and skin. See: Highland Park Elementary School cited over presence of lead paint.
The news outlet also reported that one teacher was forced to take multiple sick days and was unable to return to the school.
During the workplace investigation, Baker told media outlets that the amount of lead detected at the school did not constitute a “health risk” and added that he was “confident that the school was safe for students and employees.”
“There were no documented cases of schoolchildren suffering ill effects in more than 200 pages of school documents released earlier this year,” the Times said.
Following the discovery of dust and paint chips and complaints, the HVAC upgrades were halted and school officials hired an industrial firm to clean the facility, the report said.
Renovations resumed this summer and administrative operations are scheduled to resume at the school Aug. 13, according to the school’s website.