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Most boilers in city schools passed inspection, but many need repairs

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Contractors hired by the City of Philadelphia and the School District found that 98 percent of boilers passed inspection with either no repairs or minor repairs needed.

The report, which gives school-by-school breakdowns, was released Thursday. It found that 40 percent of the boilers passed inspection with no caveats, and 58 percent passed inspection, but need repairs.

Eleven boilers at 10 school facilities failed, but all of those also had working school boilers. Most buildings have more than one boiler.

The inspection was ordered after a boiler at F.S. Edmonds School in West Oak Lane exploded in January, critically injuring a school maintenance worker.

In total, 542 boilers in 268 buildings were inspected. Fifty-four boilers that were already offline were not inspected.

The city’s managing director’s office, Philadelphia Gas Works, the School District, and representatives of the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ District 1201 collaborated on the tests and inspections, conducted by third parties – Divine Bros. Inc. and John Meehan & Son’s Division of General Asphalt Paving.

Twelve gas-fired boilers similar to the one that exploded at Edmonds were inspected immediately, the report said. Most inspections were conducted at a rate of 75 each week, between Jan. 25 and March 18. Inspections generated 413 repair work orders; 46 have been completed, and the rest are on schedule to be completed "before the start of the next heating season."

Said Mayor Kenney: “I thank all parties involved for working together effectively to make this public safety issue a priority.” He added that he will get status updates on repair work.

Superintendent William Hite said that the process "has allowed us to reassure our staff, families and students regarding the safety of our boilers and provided the opportunity to bring more resources into our maintenance program."

A forensic analysis of what caused the Edmonds explosion is ongoing. A summary of the report is here.

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