County health department scrutinizing HNHS air quality

The air quality at Huntington North High School has come under scrutiny and subsequent testing, and has been found to show elevated carbon dioxide levels, among other test results.

A press release from Huntington County Health Officer Dr. Thomas Ringenberg states, “The current air quality test on Oct. 1, 2019, shows concerns with elevated carbon dioxide levels secondary to inadequate ventilation, increased indoor relative humidity, water leaks with resulting stained ceiling tiles, and requested contact information for an ‘indoor air quality’ coordinator.”

A previous test on March 14, 2016, resulted in satisfactory air quality at Huntington North.

Ringenberg said School Superintendent Chad Daugherty “has taken immediate corrective actions to address these concerns,” including making changes to the 50-year-old heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, closing a classroom due to leakage and stained ceiling tiles, and replacing multiple ceiling tiles throughout the building.

Ringenberg noted that the high school currently has a double layered roof “with multiple leaks which are difficult and expensive to repair.”
A press release issued from the Huntington County Community School Corporation states that a concern was expressed to the Huntington County Department of Health by local physicians Matt Pflieger and Janelle Maxwell Pflieger due to respiratory-related health issues experienced by some of their patients who are students at the high school. It adds the Indiana Department of Health conducted the air quality test on Oct. 1, and results were presented to the school corporation on Oct. 7.

The HCCSC press release also states that Daugherty has been in contact with the Indiana State Department of Health, which conducted the test, and will continue to work with the Huntington County Health Department and the State Department of Health “to ensure that the needs of our students and staff are met in keeping with the high standards of HCCSC,” which Daugherty stated is the corporation’s No. 1 priority.

A letter to Daugherty from Ron Clark, the industrial hygienist at the Indiana State Health Department who conducted the test, states the CO2 levels inside were measured with the highest reading at 1984 parts per million (ppm) parts of air, located in a classroom.

“‘Carbon dioxide concentrations in the breathing zone shall never exceed 700 ppm over the outdoor concentration,’ in this case giving a limit of 1,063 ppm,” Clark states in the letter. “Studies have found that students score lower on exams while exposed to elevated levels of carbon dioxide.”

Clark gave HCCSC 60 days to respond as to actions taken as a result of his report. Indiana law requires the air quality report, and the school corporation’s response be posted for 14 days at the school building.

HCCSC Administrative Assistant Bridgett Burkhart says HNHS parents received an email on Wednesday, Oct. 9, alerting them to the situation.
A copy of the school corporation’s press release, as well as findings of the state’s computed microbiological air sample results, are posted on the Huntington County Community School Corp. Facebook page.

A follow-up air quality test will be conducted at the high school on Oct. 22, Ringenberg stated. Daugherty said as soon as they receive the results of that evaluation they will be made available to the public and the media.