Oconomowoc High School Air Quality Update & Return to School on Monday, March 26
Posted 03/25/2018 01:56PM




OCONOMOWOC, WI –March 25, 2018.  Oconomowoc High School (OHS) and the Oconomowoc Arts Center (OAC) will re-open for school on Monday, March 26, for regular school hours and operation.  With the help of Environmental Management Consulting, Inc. (EMC), we have been monitoring the air quality inside OHS and the OAC since the afternoon on Thursday, March 22. Since approximately noon on Friday, March 23, the EMC equipment has found no carbon monoxide (CO) reading above 1 part per million (ppm), either in the OAC or other places throughout the school.  We had Western Lakes Fire District representatives in the building on Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24, to check for carbon monoxide and both times they detected no CO. The minor difference between the EMC and Western Lakes carbon monoxide readings is credited to the highly specialized equipment provided by EMC, which can detect much lower levels of pollutants than the Western Lakes equipment.


On Friday, March 23, we were informed by Western Lakes Fire District Chief Brad Bowen, that five individuals treated at area hospitals were found to have slightly elevated blood levels of carbon monoxide.  Those blood levels ranged from 2.3 ppm to 3.1 ppm, and these individuals were monitored, then released.


Dr. Timothy Westlake, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Prohealth Care Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, cited toxicology literature that an individual would likely not experience clinical symptoms until carbon monoxide blood levels exceeded 10 ppm.  The vast majority of patients tested that day, had normal blood levels.


At the afternoon briefing on Friday, March 23, with EMC, Western Lakes Fire District, and Butters-Fetting, we were informed that equipment inside the OAC showed slightly elevated levels of carbon monoxide (CO).  Over a period of several hours, levels slowly rose to a maximum of 5 ppm, then declined to 0 ppm. While these levels were below the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standard of safety of 9 ppm, the District thought it was necessary to attempt to determine the source of these readings before allowing anyone into the building.  As a result, OHS and the OAC remained closed. All practices and events planned at OHS and the OAC for the weekend were also canceled.


On Saturday, March 24, the building continued to be monitored throughout the morning and no abnormal CO readings were found, either in the OAC or other places throughout the school. The OAC air handling units were scheduled as unoccupied overnight, which means they were not moving any air. The hot water heater was turned on with the OAC air handling units still scheduled as unoccupied, and the impact of this move was monitored for a change in the OAC CO levels.  After four hours of operation there were no abnormal CO levels in the OAC. At 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, the Western Lakes Fire District inspected the OAC and adjacent spaces and also found no readings of carbon monoxide. As a result, the District, with the support of the Western Lakes Fire District, believed it was safe to allow students and staff into OHS to reclaim their belongings. CO levels continued to be monitored the entire time students and staff were in the building retrieving items, and levels remained normal.


Overnight on Saturday, the boiler in the OAC mechanical room continued to run, but the water heater was shut off in an attempt to once again isolate the source of the CO. The OAC air handling units were still set to unoccupied during this time. CO levels were monitored overnight, with the average CO reading of .4 ppm on the EMC equipment.  With no abnormal readings, the decision was made to bring the building back up to full operation and continue to monitor throughout the day on Sunday, March 25.


“We have had no levels above any recommended or regulatory limits,” said Bill Freeman, from Environmental Management Consulting, Inc. (EMC). He went on to say, “After over 30 years of testing air quality in schools and buildings of many types and sizes, we can say that the levels documented here are typical of normal school or similar building operations.”


EMC has worked with us directly since last Thursday, March 22, and was with us at our morning briefing meeting today. As of 11:00 a.m. today, we have had no readings above 1 ppm since the 5 ppm reading reported at our 12:00 p.m. briefing on Friday, March 23. Please remember that the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) safety standard is 9 ppm and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety standard is 50 ppm. We are bringing the building back up to fully occupied settings and will continue to monitor CO levels throughout the day and overnight.


We have isolated and tested the boiler and hot water heater in the OAC, the only pieces of equipment that could possibly produce carbon monoxide.  Each time this equipment was tested, no CO was detected. As a result, we have not been able to identify a source for the raised levels of CO in the OAC.  However, since the CO levels detected have always been below safety standards and have stayed below 1 ppm since the afternoon of Friday, March 23, we are intending to open OHS for normal school operations tomorrow, Monday, March 26.


We will have Western Lake Fire District, EMC, and District staff on-site prior to the start of school to ensure air quality remains safe for students and staff.  Going forward, we will continue to monitor CO levels in the OAC with equipment from EMC as well as additional monitors which have been placed throughout the building.



Thursday, March 22, 2018:


Friday, March 23, 2018:


Saturday, March 24, 2018:


Sunday, March 26, 2018: