Clean bill of health

Published 9:43 am Thursday, October 22, 2015

WINTON – Hertford County’s Board of Commissioners returned to their regular monthly meeting place on Monday evening: the Multi-Purpose Room at the new Judicial Center.

And there was no mold to be found.

“You all are sitting in a room that’s cleaner in here than it is outside; I promise,” assured County Manager Loria Williams in making her final report to the Commissioners on the mold abatement that had closed off the Judicial Center’s second-floor of the three-story facility for several days last month.

The mold revelation, though most prevalent in the Multi-Purpose Room and in Resident Superior Court Judge Cy Grant’s office-chambers, also forced the shutdown of the two second-floor courtrooms; postponing all sessions of court for two weeks.

The HVAC (heating and air conditioning) unit on that particular floor which produced high humidity levels, and which operated independently of the HVAC units that cool and heat the building’s other floors, proved to be the culprit. However, after consulting with both Healthy Environments, LLC, of Norfolk, VA, and Hayes Microbial, of Midlothian, VA, Atlantic Environmental of Chesapeake, VA began the clean-up.

Commercial de-humidifiers were used to control and maintain indoor thermal conditions. Wall panels were removed and its framing cleaned; then, all exposed surfaces were HEPA vacuumed and wiped with a detergent solution and vacuumed again, after which an anti-microbial shield was applied to the walls.

Two post-inspections were done to assist in determining the overall efficiency of the cleaning and to evaluate the work. These were done on Sept. 28 and a second inspection on Oct. 7.

For the September sampling the inspectors took indoor air samples, compared with outdoor air samples. Moisture content was measured and water saturation never exceeded 15 percent, which is considered to be normal.

A visual inspection followed where inspectors kept a keen eye out for the presence of suspected visual mold growth or conditions conducive to mold growth according to mold spore concentration guidelines. The inspection found that the concentration of the Aspergillus/Penicillium group molds that were initially found had dropped dramatically.

A second inspection on Oct. 7 did not reveal any adverse conditions or abnormal mold amplification in the affected work area, and the clean-up was deemed successful according to current industry guidelines. The report did state that it was important to maintain acceptable thermal conditions and prevent areas of water intrusion so as not to create conditions favorable for supporting future mold growth.

“The passage of time may result in a change in the environmental characteristics at this site,” said Healthy Environments principal hygienist David Guy. “This report does not warrant against future operations or conditions that could affect our recommendations that we’ve expressed in this report.”

“There’s no universally recognized ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’ level of mold exposure,” Guy concluded. “The general rule of thumb in evaluating air sample data is comparing indoor samples with outdoor ones. While mold spores can enter through HVAC systems, doors, windows, and even be carried indoors by occupants. But objective data can determine if there are potential problems in a building that may suggest a need for any further testing or remediation work.”

Williams told the Commissioners that the mold report is available for anyone who would like to read it.

“I’ve spoken to the commissioners individually about the final report on our issue as it relates to mold,” she said. We have a clean bill of health.”

The County Manager said from discovery to the final inspection had been a trying, but necessary process, and that she appreciated everyone’s understanding.

“It’s been a long process but I want to thank everybody for their patience and thank everyone that worked through it with me,” Williams concluded.

And as far as who is responsible for picking up the tab on this entire process, Williams stated back in September, “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 air quality tests.

“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 at that time. “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.”