Mold abatement begins

Published 10:06 am Tuesday, September 29, 2015

WINTON – Hertford County officials wasted little time in soliciting professionals to clear the new courthouse of mold discovered on the second floor here last week.

That work began immediately after a contract was signed late Friday afternoon between the county and Atlantic Environmental (AE) of Chesapeake, VA. Hertford County Manager Loria Williams said an AE crew spent this past weekend working on the second floor where the mold was most noticeable in Courtrooms A and B as well as the Multi-Purpose Room.

“They made progress on the two courtrooms, so much to the point where the air quality in those rooms will be tested on Monday afternoon,” Williams said. “Room C (Multi-Purpose Room), as we learned last week has the greatest amount of mold, requires a different level of work. We’re hopeful they (AE) can finish up the work there by this coming weekend.”

Williams said AE’s work is following the direction of another firm – Healthy Environments of Norfolk, VA.

“We felt strongly that we needed a set of expert eyes on the results we received last week from an air quality test that was performed on the second floor by an industrial hygienist,” she said. “That led to the professionals at Healthy Environments to closely study the report and recommend a proper course of action on how to handle removing the mold.”

In the detailed air quality report, received late last week from Hayes Microbial Consulting, all three rooms tested positive for Aspergillus/Penicillium, a common allergen mold group. The Multi-Purpose Room tested the heaviest for mold, with higher spore counts on the left side of the room. Courtroom B tested for moderate levels of spores on the right side and heavy on the left. Tests conducted in Courtroom A revealed low to moderate levels on both sides.

The tests also indicated very light levels of Cladosporium and Curvularia spores, both considered as common allergenic mold.

There was no Stachybotrys or Memnoniella mold discovered. Those two typically grow together and both are considered the most common toxic mold species.

Williams stressed that while the abatement work is being performed, the second floor remains closed. That means all sessions of court are postponed again this week.

“We had already put some air scrubbers (portable devices capable of capturing airborne particles, spores and odors) and dehumidifiers to work in those three rooms last week in an effort to try and get out front of the issues there,” Williams said. “But the health and safety of those using the courthouse, to include those working there, is paramount in our decision making process. After meeting on Friday with our maintenance staff, the judges, the District Attorney, the general contractor that built the courthouse and other parties, we put that element of human health and safety far above everything else. We will not cut any corners in this mold abatement process. We want it done right to protect health and safety as well as in an effort to minimize further delays to the court system.”

Even when the mold abatement period ends and the air quality tests are favorable on the second floor, Williams said the process is far from over.

“We have decided to perform a general air quality screening on all three floors of the courthouse,” Williams said. “We want to make sure there’s nothing that has been overlooked.”

Williams said that general screening will be performed by an agency independent of either Atlantic Environmental or Healthy Environments.

And as far as who is responsible for picking up the tab on this entire process, Williams stated, “None of this is our responsibility; it’s up for litigation. It is our intent to pass this cost on to the responsible party once same has been determined.”

Atlantic Environmental’s abatement process is under contract at $10,998. That cost does not take into consideration the work performed last week, to include the air quality tests.

In last Thursday’s edition when the story broke on the mold issue, Williams said she believed high humidity levels on the second floor were to blame.

“We are holding the building’s architect and mechanical engineer responsible for the design of the HVAC units for the second floor that has caused the problem,” she said in that article. “We feel the mechanical systems were not designed or calibrated properly. At the very least they may have to add additional equipment, at their cost, to temper the humidity levels. We were told that the humidity level indoors should be between 30-to-60 percent; anything above 60 percent could result in mold issues.”

The air samples collected last week by Timothy Arn, owner of Home Spec of NC, Inc, prompted this response, “The discussion conducted on site on Monday centered around the finding that the relative humidity (R/H) in the three rooms in question was very high,” Arn wrote in his report. “R/H readings were observed to range from 60% to as high as 70% in the three rooms. Typically the indoor environment is healthiest between 40% and 50% R/H. 60% to 70% is in the very high range and sets the environment as ‘ripe’ for fungal activity.”

The HVAC system serving the second floor act independently from the units that cool and heat the first and third floors.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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