Environmental and Grounds
The Environmental and Grounds Department serves our students, schools and citizens by educating, leading and guiding of:
- Safe, accessible, and healthful facilities and grounds
- Consultative services for regulatory compliance
- Shared responsibility for environmental quality
- Fostering stewardship of community trust
We provide access to facilities within the school system to citizens with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law enacted in 1990. ADA is wide-ranging legislation intended to make American society more accessible to people with physical and mental disabilities.
Environmental and Grounds Department’s duty is to ensure that all students, staff and citizens with disabilities have access to the facilities within our school system. We ensure compliance with ADA by reviewing all new building construction and renovation design documents and evaluating existing facilities for accessibility issues. Projects related to ADA issues are managed through the Environmental and Grounds Department.
We regulate management and removal of asbestos–containing materials within school system facilities. Many of our older schools (built before 1988) still have building materials such as selected floor tile, ceiling tile, sprayed-on ceiling insulation or pipe insulation which contains asbestos. All asbestos remaining in our schools is contained within these building materials. This means that it is sealed into these materials. Since the particles are not airborne or "friable," the asbestos does not present a health hazard. Building materials containing asbestos should not be disturbed, except by qualified and accredited personnel using approved procedures. Asbestos containing materials should not be cut, broken, sanded, drilled or handled in any way that could cause fibers to become airborne and/or "friable."
We promote conservation of resources and fostering shared responsibility for the environment with educational programs and initiatives. We help to build the ethic and practice of Environmental Stewardship by educating students and adults about the importance of clean and usable air, land and water.
Our environmental educational programs fall under three categories: Air, Land, and Water.A major component of the Air category is the nationally recognized EPA program Tools for Schools. The program supports schools in using their own resources to help improve the quality of their indoor environment. The program involves a team-based approach, led by school staff, to identify and address potential indoor air quality issues.
In the Land category we use EnergySavers and Feed the Bin. EnergySavers is a student-driven energy conservation program. The students help patrol their school to locate energy-wasting conditions and generate ideas to conserve energy at school. Using what they learn, EnergySavers students help educate other students and staff within their school and community about the importance of conserving natural resources. Feed the Bin is offered in partnership with Wake County Environmental Services’ Solid Waste Management Division to recycle paper in all schools. The recycling program is also a student-driven program, where the students are responsible for collecting all of the recycled paper from their school. The collected paper is then picked up and processed.
In the Water category, we use the student-driven program Student Water Audit Team, or S.W.A.T. The students report leaks to their custodian and maintenance department to prevent leaking toilets and faucets. Not only have S.W.A.T. students learned about the importance of water conservation, they have made valuable contributions in water savings during drought conditions.
We are responsible for irrigation systems, pine/mulch delivery, outside portable or stadium bleachers, athletic fields, weed control, fertilizer, sand, seeding, playground equipment maintenance, grading/hauling, storm drainage, fencing, gate repairs, emergency small asphalt repair, parking lot striping, and storm cleanup.
We oversee the regulated management and removal of hazardous waste products and spill remediation. All WCPSS schools and facilities may generate waste that is ignitable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic, or capable of having a harmful effect on human health or the environment. Environmental and Grounds manages hazardous waste disposition per federal regulations by ensuring the waste is properly collected from our schools and facilities by an environmental contractor. The environmental contractor will package the hazardous waste into proper containers and transport to a disposal facility.
In addition, Environmental and Grounds has a contract with an environmental company to remediate any type of spill that may occur at our schools and facilities that has a threat to human health or the environment.
Environmental and Grounds oversees the contracts and funding for hazardous waste disposal and spill remediation.
We oversee landscaping and landscape contractors, tree service, lawn mowing, landscape weed control and storm cleanup
We oversee regulated management and removal of lead–based paint. WCPSS, under the leadership of the Environmental and Grounds Department, oversees the Lead-Based Paint Program in all school buildings. It is our goal to guarantee that all building occupants are working and learning in an environment safe from lead-based paint.
Although the federal and state government does not require that our schools be pre-inspected for lead-based paint, we work very closely with Wake County Environmental Services as they periodically perform general health inspections. A lead paint analysis is performed to guarantee that if lead paint is exposed, it is referred to us and we take immediate remediation control measures to assure that our schools are lead paint safe.
If a school is found to have exposed lead-based paint, Environmental Management moves swiftly to make the area safe by totally abating or encapsulating the exposed lead paint. In 1978, federal laws were enacted to prevent the use of lead in paint. However, there are traces of lead that can still be found in some paints. One can therefore surmise that the majority of our school buildings constructed before 1978 probably have large amounts of lead paint on base surfaces.
Fortunately, because our system is proud of its track record in building maintenance: one can find this lead paint lying beneath layers of latex and/or oil-based paint. But as this acceptable covering begins to peel away and expose the lead paint, Environmental Management steps in to remediate.
We control the pest population within the school system with minimal use of pesticides. The Wake County Public School System has adopted an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Policy for managing insects and rodents at our schools. IPM is a holistic, preventive approach to managing pests. IPM minimizes pesticide use in our schools and on school grounds. For the last 10 years WCPSS has concentrated on removing pest habitats from schools rather than using pesticides for pest management. Pesticides fall into two (2) categories:
- "exempt" pesticides are relatively low risk/non-toxic
- "non-exempt" pesticides are relatively higher risk/toxicity
As of July 1, 2007, "non-exempt" pesticides are NOT used inside any WCPSS building. We are the first school system in North Carolina to achieve this level of "green" pest management.
WCPSS is required under the "School Children's Health Act" [(NCGS 115C - 47 (45) (a)] to notify all students' parents, guardians, and custodians as well as school staff of the schedule of "non-exempt" pesticide use in and on WCPSS property. Further, the statute requires WCPSS make available any updates to the schedule upon request.
Notification of Pesticide Use: On occasion our IPM staff may find it necessary to use "Non Exempt" pesticides to control outdoor insect pests at your school or at another school system site such as a maintenance shop. North Carolina state law gives you the right to be notified:
annually of our IPM Program’s pesticide application schedule or system for scheduling applications of "Non Exempt" pesticides
72 hours in advance, provide you notice of IPM pesticide applications made outside any schedule
The latter will only occur if you request notification ahead of time using the "Request for Notification" form. Please remember that if you request any advance notice be made to you via US Postal Service, it is possible the Postal Service may not deliver your notice within 72 hours of our timely mailing such notice. Notice requests asking for delivery via email require correct and/or current email addresses in order for any emailed notice to be timely delivered.
Exemptions: The same law that mandates notification also exempts certain relatively low-risk pesticide usages from its notification requirements. The relatively low risk "Exempt From Notice" pesticides include antimicrobial cleansers, disinfectants, self-contained baits, crack-and-crevice treatments, and any pesticide products classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as belonging to the US EPA’s Toxicity Class IV ("relatively nontoxic"). Your right to be notified extends to Non-Exempt IPM pesticide applications at your school or other non-school site (office building, garage, workshop, etc.). Your right includes both indoor and outdoor pesticide applications and includes applications that take place over summer recess, holidays, weekends, or after school hours. Because the relatively low risk "Exempt From Notice" pesticides are all that the IPM staff uses inside WCPSS school buildings, any Non-Exempt pesticides used by the IPM Program are only used outside. This means notices you may receive under your request will relate to outdoor insect control. Such insects include wasps, hornets, and fire ants.
Emergency Pesticide Use: In the event that a Non-Exempt pesticide must be used for a pest control emergency at your school or other site and there is not adequate time to notify you more than 72 hours in advance, and you have requested advance notice, you will receive a notice of emergency pesticide application less than 72 hours before, or as soon as possible after the pesticide application.
We conduct random testing of school facilities for radon exposure. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that seeps into buildings from the surrounding soil. You can’t see, taste, or smell radon. In fact, the only way to discover if high levels of radon are present is through testing.
There are no regulations concerning exposure to radon. However the US EPA ranks indoor radon among the most serious environmental health problems facing us today. After smoking, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. The EPA establishes recommended levels where current research suggests continual exposure could lead to a potential health problem.
As a result of EPA’s recommendations, the Wake County Public School System has been working with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources over the last several years testing some of our schools.
We oversee regulated management and removal of underground storage tanks. The Wake County Public School System is an active participant in the Underground Storage Tank Program. This program provides prevention of leaks, leak-detention, spill remediation, and closure of inactive tanks. The Environmental and Grounds Department tracks the locations and current condition of all tanks in the system.
Since the inception of this program, we have closed 116 inactive USTs, thus preventing potential spills in 90 percent of our closures and completing successful remediation in the remaining 10 percent.
We still have six campuses with active USTs. As the campuses convert from oil to another source of heating energy, then we will close these tanks.
We oversee the regulated program providing safe drinking water to all school facilities. The Water Quality Management team monitors school water quality, manages wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal from individual schools, and intervenes in activities that might create school water quality problems. The WQM staff are first responders as regards regulatory compliance, water sampling, and any reporting involving water quantity and water quality enforcement programs. The WQM team assists planning groups and school users having questions about drinking water and water pollution control. Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) are reviewed periodically by the team as well.
The WQM workgroup is staffed by professionals who have earned several licenses from by NC and Federal regulatory bodies. The team implements, guides, and offers regulatory compliance services required under a very diverse statutory framework. The team selects optimal management strategies for water quality and pest control in a school environment whose policy is to exclude, to the extent possible, all use of pesticides in and on school grounds and buildings.
Senior Director, Maintenance & Operations