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What’s causing mystery smell at Tuckahoe Elementary?

Posted at 6:49 PM, May 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-14 19:02:46-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- An investigation is underway to determine what is causing the mystery odor detected inside and near Tuckahoe Elementary School.

School officials said that teachers and staff have reported the smell in certain areas of the building on several occasions since March.

School officials have called in a number of agencies, including construction and maintenance departments, as well as Henrico firefighters to make sure the building is safe for staff and students.

Air quality testing conducted on the school grounds indicated that there was no health risk.

School officials revealed that there was a small leak in an outdoor gas meter, but said that the meter was repaired in March and then completely replaced in April.

That said, some teachers have been checked out by their doctors as a precaution.

Parents like Kelly Drewnowski, whose son attends Tuckahoe, said she is not worried about the mystery odor.

"He's been to the doctor for a routine examine since this has happened and they haven't found anything from that," Drewnowski said. "And we're not concerned at this point since they feel that it's not a harmful odor."

Andy Jenks, a spokesperson for Henrico County Public Schools, said the district is taking the odor .

"Every time a concern comes to our attention, we're on it. We're taking it seriously. We're bringing in the appropriate authorities," Jenks said. "So folks can feel assured that we're taking every reasonable step to assure the safety of that building."

Jenks said officials will continue to monitor the air quality inside of Tuckahoe for the rest of the school year.


Parents received this letter from the school's principal this week:

Dear Tuckahoe Families,

I’m writing to keep you informed about the odor that some have noticed occasionally in and around our school. The safety of our students and staff is our top priority, I want to reach out again and let you know who’s been working with us, and what’s been done about it.
Since March, there have been five instances where odors have been detected by our staff. The HCPS Construction and Maintenance Department responded promptly to each event and thoroughly checked our school including air monitoring. In several instances, the Henrico Fire Department responded to verify the safety of the school environment. In all circumstances, nothing has been found that poses a health risk to the occupants of our school. If there was, we would not have been allowed to continue using the building.
We didn’t stop there. We contacted Richmond’s Department of Public Utilities and asked for a thorough check of the exterior gas lines and exterior meter. The DPU detected a small periodic leak in an outdoor gas meter, which was repaired on March 23 and then replaced entirely on April 13. We also brought in an independent industrial hygienist, Ms. Suzanne Lowman, with Work Environment Associates, Inc. Work Environment Associates tested the school grounds with gas alert meters, and nothing was detected. Testing by Work Environment Associates has indicated that there is nothing that poses a health risk to the occupants of the school.
We are taking every reasonable step to ensure and verify the safety of our school. In doing so, we have replaced a valve on a boiler, and we will also reroute a vent to eliminate the possibility of future odor issues. In addition, Ms. Lowman met with our faculty and staff this afternoon to address concerns. Work Environment Associates, Inc. will continue to monitor the indoor air quality for the remainder of the school year to ensure continued safety.
I hope this helps address any previous information you may have heard or seen, and I would be happy to take any additional questions you may have. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Sonia Ford

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