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Biddeford school decides not to sue cleaning, abatement companies after discovering mold

Posted March 13, 2012, at 2:50 p.m.

BIDDEFORD, Maine — The Biddeford School Committee will take no action against any of the cleaning or abatement companies employed in 2006 when mold was discovered growing in the carpet at Biddeford Primary School.

According to past Journal Tribune reports, the school department spent more than $200,000 to abate the mold growing at the primary school.

The decision to not pursue a lawsuit to recoup some or all of these funds was made last year by the previous school committee, said City Attorney Keith Jacques.

According to Jacques, the issue was presented to committee members during an executive session. After the presentation, members elected to not proceed with a lawsuit against either the cleaning company or the testing or abatement companies that were involved in the incident.

Committee members were told that if they pursued a lawsuit, the school department wouldn’t receive much revenue once attorney fees were taken into account, said Superintendent of Schools Sarah-Jane Poli.

Mold growing on 12,000 square feet of carpeting at the school was discovered on July 17, 2006. Aramark cleaners had shampooed the carpets the previous Friday. Once they finished, they closed the doors and windows at the school.

The weather that weekend was “hot and humid,” said Biddeford Primary School Principal Joan Warren, which “made the perfect conditions for mold,” similar to “leaving wet clothes in a washing machine.”

It wasn’t until November that first-, second- and third-graders were allowed back into the school.

When the mold was discovered, the school department immediately brought in testing and consulting firm ESHA to create a remediation work plan, and BioSafe Environmental was awarded the bid for cleaning and abatement.

However, after the abatement was completed, new tests showed there was still mold growing in some areas of the school.

Mark Coleman, owner of both companies, said he had made recommendations that the school department did not follow that would have prevented the continued growth of mold.

Jacques said the school department disputed those claims.

At the time, Coleman also said the school department owed his companies $50,000 for services rendered.

The department then hired Northeast Test Consultants and Acadia Contractors, a cleaning company, to complete the remediation.

The abatement at the school included ripping up the existing carpeting and replacing it with tile, said Facilities Manager Phil Radding.

Flooring at all the city’s schools are now tile, said Radding, with the exception of anti-microbial carpeting in the schools’ media centers and vinyl-backed carpeting in the administration offices at Biddeford High School.

To see more from the Journal Tribune, visit journaltribune.com.

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