Company admits mistake on Harrisburg schools air quality report

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A day after Harrisburg school administrators questioned the validity of an air quality report, the company responsible admitted errors were made.

Siemens executive David Turner said another representative “overstated” the issues in school buildings.

“I think there was a mistake in the characterization of mold being an issue here,” Turner said. “Mold is not an issue. It is one area, a small area in the basement that needs to be tested.”

Turner confirmed proper lab tests were not conducted to verify whether suspected mold or mildew was indeed troublesome.

On Monday night, Siemens account executive Kevin Bowes presented findings from a six-month, 600-page report. During a public school board meeting, the district said Bowes stated he “would not send his own kids into the classroom.”

According to Turner, those statements were erroneous.

“I think that individual was off-track,” he said.

Bowes statements stirred teachers, parents and administrators concerned about health and safety inside the schools. Bowes said 10 of 11 schools had poor air quality and “detrimental conditions.”

Turner was asked if the air quality in the buildings is safe.

“We believe so, yes,” Turner said. He later said he could not be certain because proper lab tests need to be completed before a safety status can be presented.

“There was one small area of potentially mold. We don’t know if it’s mold,” Turner said. “It needs to be tested.”

District officials were outraged over the previous statements. They question the purported findings. Even the issue of air filters was questioned. Bowes said some of the filters had not been changed since 2008.

Harrisburg chief financial officer Peggy Morningstar said all air filters were replaced after Siemens notified the district in early December. Photos of apparent dirty filters were sent to ABC 27 by a teacher at Foose Elementary, which questioned that practice.

Teacher from Foose Elementary sent a photo of a classroom vent taken Wednesday.
Teacher from Foose Elementary sent a photo of a classroom vent taken Wednesday.

Turner said he could not confirm if the filters were ever replaced.

“We’re not sure,” he said, “so we’re going to recheck every single one of them to make sure they are.”

Turner said third-party company Serv-Pro would conduct lab tests of suspected mold or mildew areas and perform proper air quality tests in the schools.

Siemens was initially hired more than a year ago to conduct Phase One of a building upgrade process. The district spent $1.7 million for the study. Siemens said it would cover all costs regarding the lab tests.

Turner said much of the report is factual. He said Bowes stated 90 percent of the equipment in the buildings is in good shape, while the majority of controlled devices should be replaced. Turner said that information is correct.

Going forward, Turner said Seimens and district officials would go through the report and reexamine what needs to be fixed or upgraded. Turner said Siemens was ultimately just as stunned as the public regarding Bowes’s statements Monday and it would be addressed internally.

Turner said he is unsure why Bowes made such personal statements without evidence.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I really don’t have a comment on that. He’s a very honest, straight forward explanatory individual with a great record. I don’t know what happened. I really can’t explain. I’m not a psychologist.”

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