PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - A septic drain field filling with sewage was the biggest reason Malpass Corner Elementary School received a health inspection score of 81.5, according to a supervisor with the county’s heath department. The inspection was done March 8.
Vence Dodge, who did the inspection for the health department, said sewage was redirected to one of the two other fields, and a drain that was failing was turned off this week. According to Darren LaFon, the Chief Operations Officer for Pender County Schools, the failure filled the area with standing water as well.
According to Dodge, this problem knocked the school down 150 points. Those points factor into about a 15-point drop in the overall health score.
Dodge said the problem could’ve been caused by damage from Hurricane Florence, maintenance neglect by the septic operator, or a combination of the two.
While sewage was filling the fields, Dodge said no one was ever in danger. The field is located on the north side of the school in an area that’s only accessible to the health department, the operator and school management.
“Your children were in no way harmed,” he said.
LaFon said even though no one was in harm’s way, students’ safety is their number one priority.
“We welcome inspectors when they come because 99 times out of 100 ,they don’t find any issues or they find minor issues. This, also, is pretty much a minor issue, but when they come if they find something that we need to fix, we always want to get it fixed as quickly as possible," LaFon said.
“They [the health department] let us know if there is a safety issue for the kids, and in this case, there was no safety issue whatsoever. There was no reason to send the kids home or do anything like that, but we like when the inspectors come. Obviously we don’t like when they find things wrong, but when they do, it’s good so we can get things fixed," LaFon said.
Dodge said the school also got deductions for drinking fountains located in the hand washing sinks. He explained the older design of the school combined the water fountains and sinks.
“Due to cross contamination, we just don’t want that,” he said.
LaFon said the fountains had been capped off a while ago and weren’t in use. They have now taken off the entire fountain head.
Due to the wear and tear over the building’s 20 plus years, Dodge also suggested the school system replace about 50 percent of the toilet seats. He said they have dings and cracks in them because of old age. LaFon said they have done that as well.
The school system is also in the process of replacing ceiling tiles and some floors damaged by Hurricane Florence.
Dodge plans to go back Wednesday or Thursday to reinspect the school now that the septic issue is fixed. He predicted the score to rise to a 95 or a 96.
Schools are required to be inspected by the health department in Pender County annually.