Mold issues surface in Bertie Co.

Published 10:29 am Monday, October 31, 2016

KELFORD – As Bertie County residents and business owners are in the process of making repairs after back-to-back flooding events, a silent culprit is in their midst.

Mold is fast becoming a problem as the county attempts to recover from Tropical Storm Julia and Hurricane Matthew over a span of 17 days.

“We’re running a race right now and trying to fix a mold issue,” Bertie Emergency Services Director Mitch Cooper told the county’s board of commissioners at a Monday night meeting at the Kelford Community Building.

“We’re now over 30 days removed from the first storm (Tropical Storm Julia that dumped upwards of 17 inches of rain in some spots in Bertie from Sept. 19-21) and mold is going to be a huge issue for some homeowners,” Cooper noted. “We’re doing everything in our power to prevent a public health problem. It’s very important to head this off early. We’re pushing every day, into the night, to find ways to help our citizens.”

Cooper encouraged Bertie citizens to work with the volunteer groups now circulating in the county and allow them the opportunity to tear out the construction materials in those homes that suffered flood damage.

“Let them come in and do their job,” he said, referencing the two main organizations – the Baptist and Methodist groups – now working in Bertie County.

Cooper also advised the commissioners that he was aware that many flood victims had left their homes and are living with family or friends.

“Short term housing has been a topic of conversation for about four days now,” Cooper said. “We need those who have left their homes because of the flooding and or because of mold issues to go to the (FEMA) DRC (Disaster Recovery Center) and make them aware of those issues.

“I can’t force folks not to stay in their homes, Cooper added. “What we’re facing is our county doesn’t have a lot of empty rental homes (for use as short-term housing). We’ve made a list available (to FEMA) of mobile home parks.”

Cooper, joined by several commissioners, encouraged those citizens (homeowners and/or renters) who suffered damage from the hurricane, to include mold issues, to visit the DRC immediately. FEMA is scheduled to close its DRC – located at the Bertie County Senior Center on West School Street in Windsor – at 5 p.m. on Sunday. It is open today (Saturday) from 12 noon until 7 p.m. and again on Sunday beginning at 12 noon.

“We have some who are living in their homes and experienced flooding who have not gone to FEMA,” stressed Commissioner Tammy Lee. “They may not have any other place to go, but we need to encourage those folks to leave so the mold issue can be handled. It’s not healthy for them to live there right now.”

Cooper said DART (Disaster Assistance Recovery Team) now in the county was scheduled to be housed in the Aulander area while they worked to rip out wet construction materials from flooded homes.

“We’re getting ready to broaden our footprint in the county, reaching out to those in need,” Cooper said. “We are coordinating our efforts with DART along with the Baptist and Methodist groups so they all will not show up to work on the same house.”

He added that a list has been developed through the county tax office of the impacted homes.

“That gives these volunteer groups something to work off of, knowing where to go,” Cooper noted. “What’s even better is that they are trained to spot other homes that were impacted and may not be on the list. They will knock on those doors as well to see how they can help.”

Cooper also brought the commissioners up to speed on how the county will handle the removal of storm debris. FEMA will cover those costs.

“We will send out a storm RFP (Request for Proposal) to have companies to offer a quote on the cost of clean up,” Cooper remarked. “We will pick one based on FEMA’s regulations.”

He also stressed to the board that there were some damaged homes in the county from where the process to remove debris has yet to begin.

“We’ll have debris for the next six months, and we have to make sure to protect ourselves from the contractor because we don’t want to pay him to sit there, and we need to protect the contractor because he needs to know when to come in and do the work,” Cooper said.

As far as road repairs in the county, Cooper said that is a DOT issue.

“We understand that we’re just one of the counties in the eastern part of the state where roads were damaged,” he stated. “We’ve got damage to 26 roads, and half of them are washouts, but DOT is dealing with road damage in 15 other counties as well. We’re patiently waiting to get our roads straight.”

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.

email author More by Cal