Canada A black mystery substance is coming out of vents at this Toronto public school

07:11  15 may  2018
07:11  15 may  2018 Source:   thestar.com

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Parent Kedrin Case outside Huron Street Public School, where she is concerned about a black substance being ejected through the vent system.© Rick Madonik Parent Kedrin Case outside Huron Street Public School, where she is concerned about a black substance being ejected through the vent system.

Black debris is falling from the ventilation system of a downtown Toronto public school, according to a parent who shared photos and a sample of the mysterious substance with the Star.

Kedrin Case, whose daughter is in Grade 6 at Huron Street Public School, in the Annex near Spadina Rd. and Bloor St. W., says she first noticed the gunk last week while holding auditions for a parent-run talent show.

“I noticed black debris everywhere,” she told the Star. “It was actually underneath a vent, a high vent on the ceiling.”

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CEO Andy Byford said there were concerns a spark within the tunnel from a passing train could ignite the mystery substance . "It's actually coming through pretty rapidly," he said. "We could not take any chances with this liquid."

At first, Case said she thought it was mouse droppings. She said she asked a teacher what was going on, “And they said, ‘Yeah, this is the problem we’ve been having. It’s been months and months of this — if not years.’”

The school, which the board said serves around 400 students from kindergarten to Grade 6, is also the site of a daycare program — though its director, Gertie Dorval, said she hadn’t seen the same issues.

Concerns about debris coming from the supply fan unit in the Grade 2 classroom were raised last June, said Toronto District School Board spokesperson Shari Schwartz-Maltz. The debris was tested and the unit was cleaned during the summer, she said.

“All materials in the unit were tested and found to be non-asbestos containing,” Schwartz-Maltz said in a statement to the Star.

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A third-party environmental consultant conducted tests on the material and determined particulate matter results were within the acceptable limits of the ministry and World Health Organization, she said.

The Ministry of Labour investigated after receiving a complaint in November, which did not result in any orders for the TDSB, Schwartz-Maltz said.

Facilities staff have started working to remove grills and clean the surrounding space, she said, adding they have also power-washed the coils in the fan units.

“Also, floor tiles were assessed and it was determined that repair work may be best scheduled during the summer break,” she said.

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Across Ontario, schools with leaking roofs, crumbling walls and broken furnaces have been labelled a threat to local heritage, on top of their impact on students and teachers.

After noticing the black debris, Case saw peeling flooring and marks in other Huron St. classrooms and became increasingly worried about the environment where young students were learning.

“These kids are on the floor, they’re putting their fingers in their mouth, they’re breathing this stuff,” Case said.

“I pressed further, and there have been work orders placed by the principal, the teachers ... they’re stymied. They feel frustrated.” She said they’ve done “above and beyond” what they’re able to do about the mysterious substance.

In a photograph provided to the Star, dark stains can be seen spreading outwards from a vent at the top of a classroom wall.

Another photo shows the lid of a large bin spotted with black debris. Another shows what appears to be the same tarry debris on blue and green foam tiles.

Case also provided the Star with a bagged sample of the debris.

She contacted and trustee Ausma Malik and superintendent Mike Gallagher in a May 5 email sent on behalf of herself and another parent and shared with the Star. That email included the photographs she said were taken inside Huron St. “This is an obvious health hazard. I am requesting an immediate review of these items as well as an immediate plan of action. It is a travesty that these teachers have been ignored and moreover discouraged from talking about it. I am flabbergasted,” Case wrote.

Gallagher responded on May 7, writing that he’d contacted principal Cheryl Howe for more information and followed up with both the board’s health and safety office and the facilities team leader for Huron.

“I will let you know as soon as I have more information,” he wrote.

With files from Vjosa Isai

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