Microbiologist criticizes mold testing by Horry County Schools

Grand Strand

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – A microbiologist is criticizing Horry County Schools for how it tests schools suspected of having mold.

Donnie Patterson was inspired to look into mold issues in the Upstate since he got sick due to toxic mold back in April.

The microbiologist is now working with the parents of St. James Elementary School students, worried the building is making the kids sick.

“This is a time for Horry County to step for the rest of South Carolina and the rest of the country,” Patterson said to the HCS board Monday night.

Patterson has looked over air quality test results at St. James Elementary and says some of the data is flawed.

“A retest that was recently reported stated that the HVAC in the room had been sealed off before the testing took place,” said Patterson. “Air sampling depends on mold spores and fragments being airborne at the time of testing.”

“We, as the parents of St. James, had reached out to him to get some more information about the exposure to mold and the ongoing effects that it could have on our kids,” said Will Taylor, a parent of a St. James Elementary student.

News13 has learned more than 20 HCS schools put in work orders where staff has reported seeing and smelling mold or reported the potential for mold and mildew. 

Parents from other schools are also telling HCS about mold issues in their buildings.

“This is a disastrous problem,” said Colleen Mills, who’s the parent of a Carolina Forest High School student. “Teachers, staff and our children are sick. We need to fix this now and not just at Carolina Forest High School, but all the schools in Horry County.”

Patterson also says more detailed testing is necessary.

“Not only are these tests not able to discern between the different species of Aspergillus and Penicillium, they can’t even discern between Aspergillus and Penicillium,” he said.

HCS says it’s looking to hire an environmental consultant if mold problems continue. Bidding for that service ends Wednesday

An HCS spokesperson says the school board could hire a consultant in April or May.

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