Results from initial Starbuck testing released: Tests indicate normal gas levels; cause of health concerns still unknown

Posted by Julia Leef

This afternoon, Dean of Student Affairs Rochelle Calhoun released a statement to the student body reporting that the initial testing in Starbuck had been completed and that the results indicated no abnormal gas levels in the building.

Although the nature of the health concerns which have led to the evacuation of 50 employees from the Starbuck building have yet to be disclosed to the student body, the statement revealed that tests for radon, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds were identified as being within or below the recommended ranges. No detectable levels of formaldehyde were identified.

Executive Director of Communications Dan Forbush denied to comment on the rumors of breast cancer and miscarriage that have been circulating around campus, saying only that all employee medical information is confidential. "I cannot discuss the health information of the employees," he said.

"As always, the health and safety of our employees are of paramount concern," Forbush said in a separate statement. "We will continue to work closely with the employees of Starbuck Center and with our independent consultants."

On Jan. 18, President Glotzbach sent out a message to retirees who had worked in Starbuck. When asked about the contents of the message in an earlier interview, Calhoun did not answer directly, but said, "One of the things is that he just wanted to be inclusive to make sure that people who worked there in the past were aware that they could be in touch with Human Resources if they had questions or concerns. You just want to be precautionary as possible in terms of casting a wide net. It's basically precaution and information gathering."

The industrial hygienist consultant from ATC Associates Inc., whom the College employed to investigate these health concerns, found mold in one room and recommended that the College take steps to alleviate the problem. College officials said they will take action once all employees have fully evacuated the building, which is scheduled to occur by mid-February.

"We are planning for both remediation and eventual re-testing to be sure Starbuck remains a safe environment," Forbush said. He added in a later interview that the evacuations are moving as fast as the administration can handle the process, and said that the recent test results indicated that an immediate evacuation was not necessary, nor was it recommended by the consultant.

College officials said further investigations will involve medical reviews of the health concerns reported by employees in Starbuck by another individual consultant, though the exact date of these investigations or when the findings will be released to the public, was not mentioned in Calhoun's statement.

Further tests will also be run later in the semester, as results may vary according to the changes in the weather, Forbush said.

"Not only will it [Starbuck] be tested again in the spring with the change of weather, but after the issue with the mold has been addressed, the building will be re-tested," Forbush said.

Calhoun said even if the issues in Starbuck are resolved, the building itself will remain offline for some time. "Even if there isn't a health-related issue, since you've moved everyone out of the building you may as well go in and do other stuff you want to do with the building," Calhoun said. "It's pretty rare that you have an empty building to do any kind of maintenance on. So that in and of itself might prolong people being out of the building."

"We will certainly inform students and employees about any aspect of the building that we feel is important for them to be aware of," Forbush said, although he added, "I don't see a time in which we would publicly discuss the health information of our employees."

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