According to Bill Elswick, coordinator of school transportation and facilities for the West Virginia Department of Education, West Virginia is among the first states to address the emerging issue of indoor air quality in schools. Earlier this year, representatives from the EPA’s Region III office in Philadelphia shadowed Department of Education technicians to evaluate West Virginia’s program.
“It’s evident that EPA representatives believe that West Virginia is on the cutting edge of this emerging issue,” Elswick explained. “To date, we’ve conducted indoor air quality reviews and have resolved problems in dozens of schools. With support from EPA Region III, we will be visiting even more schools and training additional personnel in the coming months,” he continued.
“We have now received approximately $155,000 in training and grant commitments from EPA,” he noted. “We held one training session in March that was supported by the EPA and sponsored by the Department of Education and the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health. These funds from the EPA will help the state offset expenses incurred while training county personnel, conducting further indoor air quality reviews and purchasing monitoring equipment.”
Elswick said that Senator Jon Blair Hunter (Monongalia County) and Delegate Larry Williams (Preston County) initiated legislation in 1999 to address air quality issues in West Virginia’s schools.
According to Elswick the legislation enabled the Department of Education to employ a first-rate team of experienced technicians who visit schools, identify indoor air quality problems and determine solutions. Three technicians, the first of whom was hired in August 1999, serve as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and facilities consultants for the counties.
“Our team members complement each other very well,” he continued. “Their varied backgrounds enable them to attack a problem from different viewpoints with the ultimate goal of making schools healthier. Each of these technicians has over 20 years of extensive experience in areas ranging from HVAC issues, construction, operations and maintenance. Their assistance is certainly welcomed and appreciated by county school systems.”
“The Region III staff looks forward to working closely with the Departments in West Virginia in improving indoor air quality in schools through our Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Program,” explained Cristina Schulingkamp, environmental engineer in the EPA’s Region III office.