An unpleasant odor that had been wafting through the hallways of Berg Middle School for weeks has been eliminated, school maintenance crews reported.
Jack Suttek, the maintenance supervisor for the Newton Community School District, confirmed with the Newton Daily News Wednesday morning the installation of several charcoal vent pipe filters subdued the faint rotten egg smell permeating the recently constructed middle school.
Less than a month ago, the school district sent an email to parents and guardians whose children are enrolled in Berg Middle School and clarified the odor “is not harmful” and was being dealt with by Suttek’s maintenance team.
Identified sometime in March, the smell was suspected to be caused by the evaporation of water collected in the school’s heat pump drain boxes. Suttek speculated the water in P-trap piping evaporated during the construction process or may not have been filled.
With no liquid to block the natural gas from exiting the pipe system, a sewer smell lingered in certain areas of the middle school. Although vent stack pipes on the roof of the two-story building were up to code on the required height, school administrators asserted it was not enough to disperse the odor effectively.
In addition to the OdorHog-brand pipe filters, maintenance crews filled the P-traps with an “environmentally friendly orange oil odor blocking trap primer.” This solution would not evaporate as quickly and would act as a seal to prevent gas from entering the middle school through the air handling units.
“We went back through the building and double-checked every plumbing trap in the building to make sure everything was full and not letting any gas expel into the building — but we got it!” Suttek said Wednesday, relieved. “By covering all of our bases, it seems we solved the problem.”
Lisa Sharp, principal of Berg Middle School, noticed on March 28 that she had not smelled anything for a couple days.
“We haven’t since then,” she said. “So we are extremely pleased with that.”
Although the odor was unexpected, Sharp said there has to be some anticipated complications following the construction of a new school. Farris Engineering, of Urbandale, assisted in the school’s efforts to get rid of the smell.
“There are going to be some (things) that just naturally happen,” Sharp said. “The (engineering) company and the school district has, in my opinion, done a great job working together to get it solved as quickly as possible.”
The smell did, however, cause some class disruptions before it was cleared. On occasion, Sharp said, some classrooms had the option of moving elsewhere for teachings, and “a couple classrooms did.”
She added, “It just depended. It wasn’t in one area of the building all the time. It would pop up in different areas. You never knew. So if it was in their area and it was just unbearable then they had the option to move ... Other than that, the kids and the teachers were pretty patient and understanding that they were working hard on solving it.”
Suttek was determined to quell to smell, telling the Newton Daily News in March that the odor “better be gone” by the time every filter was installed. Needless to say, he was thrilled to find out the aroma had disappeared from the middle school.
“I was extremely happy,” Suttek said. “It was just one of those things that was becoming a pest. You know what I mean? It was getting old quick. You wouldn’t expect something like that out of a brand new building. You can’t even really point the blame, really, at anybody. It was just something that happened.”
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org