Skip To Main Content

Riccardi Odor Remediation


What tests were done, and who performed them?
A number of different tests–using different testing methods and for different purposes–have been completed over the past two weeks by two different agencies: Quality Environmental Solutions & Technologies, Inc. (QUEST) and Ulster BOCES Health & Safety. 

Was asbestos responsible for this odor?
No. The air was initially tested by Quest on April 6, immediately following the asbestos abatement project, and we were given clearance to return the building to use. After the odor became an issue the following week, at no point was it believed to be related to asbestos. Abatement projects follow very strict processes and have extensive oversight to ensure they are performed in a manner that meets the mandated standards.    

Who removed the floor tile?
The work was completed by a certified contractor using a NYS-approved method. An architect and construction manager, who were hired by the district, oversaw the abatement process. 

Why was the floor tile being removed?
Sections of the hallway, nurse's office, faculty lounge, and one classroom that contained asbestos floor tiles were slated for removal as part of a routine, scheduled capital outlay project. There will be future abatement projects to replace other flooring in the building. We will take what we have learned from this experience when planning future projects. 

Why was this work scheduled at this time?
It is common to conduct abatement projects such as this during school breaks, and it is highly unusual to have issues such as this with the work. In fact, our environmental consultant, who has worked with the district for a number of years, has said there have been at least four similar projects in the district and there has never been an issue.   

What was responsible for the odor?
Complaints about the odor were received Tuesday afternoon, April 11. Expertise in similar situations, knowledge of the water-soluble solution used to remove the glue that was holding the tiles down, and information available in its Safety Data Sheet, led everyone involved to immediately suspect the cleaning solution as the odor’s culprit. This solution was absorbed into old wood, crevices, and other porous surfaces, which prevented it from drying quickly and resulted in the odor. We were advised to clean and dry the affected areas and provide increased ventilation.  

What process was used to initially remove the floor tile?
A water-soluble cleaning solution was applied to the floor to soften the mastic (glue) that held the tiles in place. The tiles were manually removed and the solution was used to remove the mastic from the floor. The floors were then washed and dried and the area was ventilated to remove any residual odor.

What was the cleaning agent used?
The water-soluble cleaning solution used to remove the glue is called Chemsafe 100. This product is common for school projects and considered an industry-standard.  The Safety Data Sheet for Chemsafe 100 can be found below.

When were tests related to the odor performed and what was the recommendation?
Air samples were started on Wednesday, April 12 when the Health & Safety consultant from Ulster BOCES placed a sophisticated collection device in our teacher’s lounge, which was the area with the most pungent odor. The device collected air samples over a 48-hour period and the results were sent to us on Monday afternoon (several days after I made the decision to close the building for remediation). These results measured the level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in the air, but did not identify what specific ones were present. The report recommended that additional samples be taken to identify the specific VOCs present. At the time of receiving the report, remediation was already well underway as we had crews in throughout the weekend taking steps to remove or clean any surfaces that may have absorbed the solution. 

What is a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)?
A VOC is a class of chemicals, not a specific one. VOCs are found in thousands of daily use products, including perfumes, hand sanitizers, crayons, cosmetic products, paint, wax, and various cleaning solutions, to name just a few. 

What additional tests were performed?
On Monday, April 17, Quest also took air samples in various locations using two methods. Canister devices (TO-15) that collect samples over an eight-hour period to test for 72 separate VOCs were performed in several locations, and then delivered to a laboratory in Syracuse. Additionally, on Monday and Tuesday, Quest took additional measurements using a hand-held photoionization detector (PID), which is also a useful screening instrument that records levels of VOCs in the air at a specific snapshot in time. These readings were all at levels the environmental consultant said were well within normal ranges. 

When will the written reports be available?
The final written report detailing the specific 72 VOCs tested is expected around April 26, 2023 and will be shared on our website. We were provided a summary report, which can be found below.

Why was the decision made to shift to remote this week, but the building was occupied last week?
Upon receiving complaints of the odors on Tuesday afternoon, we consulted with our environmental experts and there was no recommendation to close the building. On Friday, the smell was still prevalent and the remediation efforts under discussion involved removing wood and other surfaces that had absorbed the solution. The decision to pivot to remote this week was my own, and was made with nothing but the best intentions of providing our students and staff with the best environment possible as quickly as possible. Having an unoccupied building allowed us to facilitate the speediest response effort possible. 

Where was the floor tile removed?

Flooring was removed from a classroom, the Health Office, Faculty Room, and hallway. The areas are identified in blue.

Highlighed picture of which Riccardi spaces had abatement work completed