Mold found inside Douglas County Law Enforcement CenterThe lurking shadow of mold continued to trouble many in the Alexandria area after torrential rains fell this summer.
By: Wendy Wilson, Alexandria Echo Press
The lurking shadow of mold continued to trouble many in the Alexandria area after torrential rains fell this summer.
Mold infiltrated the Douglas County Courthouse and Douglas County Services Center, according to two recent reports.
Douglas County hired MacNeil Environmental, Inc. of Grand Rapids and Legend Technical Services, Inc. of Fargo to conduct spore and air sampling inside the Douglas County Courthouse and the Douglas County Services Center.
A certified mold consultant from Legend Technical Services, Inc. collected spore and air samples from the Law Enforcement Center (LEC) and Family Services Center July 20.
Mold was observed in the license area. Walls with vinyl wallpaper in the library were still wet. Examination revealed water entered the child support offices.
“The subfloor buckled and smelled musty,” the report stated.
The LEC front lobby “smelled foul” and “[s]everal of the second floor rooms were inspected and smelled very musty and damp,” according to the Legend representative. Mold was seen on the walls of the east end of the first floor of the LEC.
Spore samples were taken from eight locations. Legend found spore and air samples showed low acceptable mold spore counts in the south end of the library, child support services, and the LEC second floor hallway. A higher spore count was found in the license area. Total spore counts, however, were considerably lower than total spore counts found outside the building.
A yeast problem was the stated cause of odor found in the LEC, according to Legend. It believed the yeast was growing inside the wall cavity.
An air sampling of the dirt crawlspace beneath the LEC found two Stachybotrys spores.
“The presence of Stachybotrys i[n] a gym area is a concern,” the report stated.
Some strains of Stachybotrys mold are believed to produce mycotoxins that can cause a wide range of symptoms, including headaches, sore throats, fatigue, diarrhea, flu-like symptoms, dermatitis, immune suppression and possible fatal pulmonary hemorrhage in infants, according to many experts. Some have termed the species “black mold.”
“Several strains of this fungi may produce a trichothecene mycotoxin – Satratoxin H – which is a poison by inhalation,” the report stated regarding the Stachybotrys mold species.
Legend recommended several corrections to remove the materials compromised by the water and mold and suggested resampling in several areas.
A visual inspection inside the Douglas County Courthouse July 27 by MacNeil Environmental Inc. revealed the presence of mold in the storage room of the sheriff’s area on the second floor, and the underlayment of the cafeteria of the old jail. MacNeil Environmental Inc. took air samples from the Douglas County Courthouse on July 28.
“The results of the air samples indicate that fungal spores are less concentrated indoors than outdoors,” David Rice, manager at MacNeil, stated in his August 8 report. “In general, indoor air samples found to have lower concentrations of mold than outdoor samples signify the presence of an acceptable indoor spore count.”
Federal standards regulating mold concentrations in the air do not exist, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
“Most typical indoor air exposures to mold do not present a risk of adverse health effects,” according to an OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin issued March 2010. “Molds can cause adverse effects by producing allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions). Potential health concerns are important reasons to prevent mold growth and to remediate existing problem areas.”
Symptoms associated with allergic reactions to mold may include red eyes and sinus drainage, respiratory illnesses, skin or mucus infections, asthma attacks, irritation in eyes, skin, nose, or throat. Immuno-compromised individuals may experience infections associated with mold.
OSHA recommended cleaning water leakage within one to two days.
“As a general rule, simply killing the mold, for example, with biocide is not enough,” the bulletin stated. “The mold must be removed, since the chemicals and proteins, which can cause a reaction in humans, are present even in dead mold.”
RESPONSE TO THE
Douglas County Coordinator Bill Schalow said the county is following the recommendations provided by the investigative teams.
“The places that we did find any traces of mold, sheetrock was cut out and replaced,” he said. “Everything was washed down and vacuumed. We did what we were supposed to do.”
Schalow said he was unaware of the origin of the Stachybotrys spores.
“It could have been in that rain event where some soil got pushed down through the window,” he said. “Mud slid into the basement.”
County Coordinator employee Heather Schlangen said she did not see any mold in the basement during the inspection.
She said a workout area was on the other side of the wall.
“It is a concerning type of mold (Stachybotrys), but there were two spores,” she said. “It is a very, very, very tiny fraction, but still enough for us to warrant our reacting to it.”
“It did cause concern when [the report] use[d] the word ‘concern,’ ” he said.
Schalow said the county contacted two companies to clean the downstairs portion of the LEC and air samples would be taken after the clean up was completed. He said the area was restricted.
Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen said he believed the situation was under control.
“The mold levels are not alarmingly high,” he said.
Sheriff’s office employees were moved to the site of the former jail. Dispatch is the only area that remained at the LEC.
Wolbersen said air scrubbers, HEPA filters, and dehumidifiers were employed in the area and adjustments were made to the air-conditioning units for dispatch. Existing ductwork was changed and new ductwork installed.
“They are getting very good air,” he said.
He said after the July rain, some employees had reported sore throats, scratchy eyes and respiratory issues.
“We have not had any employee complaints since the changes have been made,” Wolbersen said. “We are doing everything we can to protect our employees.”
Additional samples were taken throughout the building August 4. Results were expected Thursday.
“I think we are doing the best we can,” Schalow said. “I do not have any concerns as such.”
Douglas County commissioners will continue to discuss whether to gut the existing county services center or find an alternate location.
Wolbersen said, “We have felt a green site would be the best solution.”