FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - A Pee Dee community is at odds over carbon monoxide poisoning allegations.
Parents who have children at West Florence High School say their children tested positive for elevated carbon monoxide levels despite the district's test results showing the school is clear of carbon monoxide and is safe. District leaders discussed the issue during Thursday's night school board meeting.
This past Monday, the district released a letter as proof the school was clear of carbon monoxide. Still, several parents said they weren't buying it. While parents did attend Thursday night's meeting, it was West Florence High students who addressed the board, worried about their fellow students and teachers health.
"We wanted to address the issue of carbon monoxide um gas leak at our school," Rachel Freeman said. "Students are getting sick, faculty's getting sick. We really just wanted to try and figure out what's actually happening and what's being done about it."
Freeman is a senior at West Florence High School and a member of the facilities student committee. She said the carbon monoxide is the biggest problem facing her school.
One of those students Freeman alleged tested positive for elevated CO levels is a her friend and also a member of the facilities student committee.
"She was in the classroom where the original leak was originally found and so her mom took her to get tested just to be sure and um her and her brother both ended having carbon monoxide poisoning," Freeman said.
The school board came prepared to answer Freeman's questions.
Along with the letter of test results, Interim Superintendent Dr. Dan Strickland presented people with a time-line of actions by Florence One when the district was first notified of the potential CO exposure.
The time-line from Florence One is as follows:
1. The district was notified by a teacher of carbon monoxide exposure on Wednesday, January 31. The teacher worked in a science lab classroom.
2. On Wednesday, January 31, district staff, with the assistance of the local gas company, tested all labs for carbon monoxide and the gas was shut off to all labs. The gas remains off to all labs. With the gas off, no carbon monoxide was detected.
3. On Wednesday, January 31, the district contacted the Florence City Fire Marshal for assistance with testing and recommendations for remediation. FSD1 also contacted the SC State Fire Marshall's Office requesting assistance with our monitoring of WFHS..
4. On Friday, February 2, an environmental firm ABS Environmental was called in to assess the building and monitor for carbon monoxide in the labs but also in other areas of the building that may have exposure to carbon monoxide. The testing agency was on site this morning and is assessing the monitors but it appears that no carbon monoxide was detected in any of the survey areas. The district is awaiting the final report.
5. Simplex, the district's fire alarm company, is currently procuring carbon monoxide sensors for the lab areas and any other areas of the school exposed to gas fired equipment. The new sensors will be monitored by the fire alarm system. Installation of the carbon monoxide sensors started yesterday, February 7th and is expected to be complete by Friday, February 9th.
6. The district was notified that some students may have been tested for carbon monoxide exposure over the weekend but the district does not have any details at this time.
7. The district will continue to survey for carbon monoxide until the permanent sensors are in place.
8. The environmental firm ABS made an additional assessment on Monday and the results were release to parents at West Florence on the very same day, Monday, February 5th.
District leaders even invited someone who works for ABS Environmental, Inc., the company who tested the classrooms for carbon monoxide levels, to explain their results saying the CO levels in the classrooms tested were well below the threshold before it becomes dangerous.
But that wasn't enough for the parents.
Midway through the meeting a group of parents left the room to talk to the ABS Environmental employee personally.
Some of their concerns echoed Freeman's, especially the fact that the test was done two days after the gas was turned off.
"I think it's kind of bazaar considering we have had 15 people tested positive for carbon monoxide poisoning… um I'm also wondering why weren't there like tests being done before the gas was turned off, you know, when there's still carbon monoxide being fed into the school," Freeman said.
The group of parents have hired an attorney. While they declined to comment Thursday night, they said they will release a statement next week. District officials say they've ordered carbon monoxide monitors. They'll be done installing the monitors in the school this weekend.