BY MICHAEL TUCKER
A power outage during the early morning hours last Friday took out the sewage ejector pump at Belgrade Intermediate School, backing up sewage in four basement rooms. But cleaning efforts are underway and the area is expected to receive a clean bill of health early next week, Superintendent Candy Lubansky said Thursday.
Tests showed four basement rooms were affected by E. coli bacteria and mold contamination, Lubansky said. No students were present during, or since, the backup occurred and the area has been quarantined. The district has hired a Helena-based industrial hygienist and local cleaners, Kleen King, to handle the clean up.
“I asked very directly twice of the industrial hygienist, ‘is it safe to have students in the building?’ and he said ‘yes,’” Lubansky said.
The power went out around 3:30 a.m., on Aug. 28, which caused about two inches of water to flood from the mechanical room into the music and computer rooms, she said.
Workers from Kleen King were on the scene Thursday and said the water “wicked up” the drywall, making it necessary to remove baseboards and cut out affected areas.
On Thursday, the school district issued a public notice to explain the situation and assure parents that their children are safe. The notice appears on page A5 of today’s newspaper.
“After discussing the current status of that area with our hygienist he has informed us that all contamination has been contained and will not affect other areas of the school, including the kitchen area,” according to the notice. “We also have confirmation that the bacteria will not be an airborne threat in either school.”
The intermediate and middle school buildings have been experiencing regular power outages and NorthWestern Energy has patched the problems in the past. This time, though, crews will dig up and replace the line, Intermediate School Principal Jan Riebhoff said.
“We’ve had several outages in the past,” she said.
Both the power company and the cleaning crews will work through the weekend, and the job is expected to be signed off by the industrial hygienist Tuesday, Lubansky said.
The district will receive a comprehensive report detailing all findings before and after cleanup, according to the public notice. The report will be available or review at the district administration offices by Tuesday.