EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 13, 2013

Report: Moisture on pipes fed mold

Uninsulated AC pipes suggested as culprit

LAWRENCE — The mold infestation that shut the Guilmette School for most of the 2010-11 school year was caused by moisture collecting on frigid air conditioning pipes that were improperly insulated against the summer heat, a lawyer hired to recover the cost of the cleanup told city councilors last night.

The report on the cause of the infestation came as city Budget Director Mark Ianello told the councilors that as much as $3 million more may be needed to pay for rebuilding the interior of the elementary and middle school following the interior demolition needed to get at the mold.

Already, the city and school district have spent or dedicated $4 million to rip out and replace blackened wallboard, insulation and ceiling tiles, to scrub down desks and other furnishings and to relocate the school’s 1,100 students and staff during the six-month cleanup. Much of the reconstruction included temporary patches that allowed the school to reopen in April 2011, so the next round of repairs will include ripping out the quick fixes so that permanent fixes can be installed.

Those fixes include tuning up the air conditioning system, which has been shut down for three years.

“Our fear is if the air conditioning system isn’t properly (repaired), this could happen again,” Jack McDonnell, the lawyer attempting to recover the cost of the cleanup from the contractor who built the school and its insurance company, told the council last night.

Other work still to be done includes replacing fire- and water-proofing materials, insulation, caulking and floor and ceiling tiles.

The work was initially expected to cost just $500,000, in part because the city hoped to use public works crews to do much of the reconstruction. Acting Public Works Director John Isensee told the council his department wasn’t up to the job because years of budget cuts have badly depleted its staff.

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