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Black mold found in CB Town Hall

At the June 9 Colonial Beach Town Council work session, Town Manger Val Foulds revealed that air quality tests confirmed three types of mold present in Town Hall, one of which is commonly referred to as “black mold”. Foulds also discussed safety concerns and other repair issues during the work session.


Foulds informed Council that based on an inspection by an environmental specialist, the Town received a report on Friday afternoon, June 6, stating that the air quality was positive for three types of mold, including black mold. Foulds also said, “I received the lab reports on air quality with an estimate for mitigation and remediation of an 800-sq.ft area. The cost is estimated at $48,010; this does not include restoration, and they also stressed it does not cover additional mold that may be found after the building is opened up.”

Foulds received the lab reports at approximately 3: p.m. on Friday; at 3:05 p.m., she then contacted Town Attorney Andrea Erard via email with a copy of the lab report. Foulds said the two discussed the matter, and she provided Erard with a snapshot of what had been occurring and followed up with additional documents to help Erard understand the scope of the issue.

Foulds said at 3:10 p.m., she contacted a VML (Virginia Municipal League) insurance representative, who recommended Foulds speak immediately with VML’s Industrial Hygienist. Foulds provided a report to the hygienist with a report on one employee who is currently out of work with a doctor’s note stating she is suffering from some environmentally-related issues.

VML informed Foulds that there are some grants available for these types of issues; however, the maximum amount is $4,000.

Foulds said at 4:15 p.m., she called both the Mayor and Vice Mayor to come to Town Hall to apprise them of the situation. At 5:54 p.m., Dextor Monroe called to advise Foulds that a staff person from the Health Department would be meeting with him on Saturday morning to obtain copies of the lab reports. The Health Department indicated they would send copies to the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality).

Foulds updated the rest of Council at 9:07 p.m. on Friday evening. Foulds said that an official from VML, Beth Rosenthal, has asked Foulds to remove two employees who are experiencing the most symptoms,from the area.

Foulds said there is one HVAC system that serves the entire building, which shows evidence of fungus inside the unit. “So, we cannot work in the building.”

The issues in Town Hall are not new; after several named storms dumped large amounts of rain on the Town of Colonial Beach in August 2011, Town Hall has been dealing with a leaky roof, loose window casings and poor air quality ever since.

In a memo dated August 8, 2011, Foulds informed the sitting Council of several issues in Town Hall that existed and needed addressing “for a very long time.”  

In the fall of 2012, issues with the air conditioning became evident due to a long stretch of record-breaking heat. During a service call by Puller Heating and A/C, the HVAC was deemed inadequate to handle the load. The memo states that Mr. Puller concluded that all components were working at full capacity.

Puller also noted that having single-pane windows in the predominant areas of the building contributed to the loss of conditioned air. The memo stated that employees where purchasing fans with their own money, but found no relief from the heat. The memo states, “Unfortunately, even this step did not make a significant difference with respect to the temperature and stagnant air quality.”

The memo informed Council that Town Staff had resorted to using window units in addition to the central air units, but warned that the noise level posed a safety risk, as well as inflated utility bills.  Foulds explained that if there was a fire or other emergency in another area of the building, employees would be unable to hear any calls for help or alarms due to the high volume of noise generated by the window units.

Also included in the 2012 memo was a warning of air quality; the memo stated, “In recent months, several employees in the building have had recurring bouts of respiratory ailments. At least one employee has been tested for allergies and has medical documentation confirming that they are allergic to dust and mold.  Other employees have had recurring ‘colds’ that seem to linger.”  

Foulds invited the current 2012 Public Works Committee to take a tour of the Town Hall building to see firsthand the conditions that exist.

At the June 9 meeting this week, Mayor Mike Ham said, “We have no choice but to do what is needed.”

The council briefly discussed finding alternative workspaces, such as the Town Center or moving Town Hall employees to either the Primary building at the old elementary campus or renting a space in the Rankin’s Shopping Center.

Councilman Gary Seeber reminded the other members that the $48,000 quoted by Foulds did not include other safety repairs needed, and Foulds added that the roof repairs were also not included. Seeber questioned, “Wasn’t part of the discussion with the Primary building, to put them up there?” Seeber added, “If we’re going to spend seventy-five, eighty grand to fix up a building we are talking about vacating anyway, you know maybe it would be better to get the system cleaned, if that would take care of an immediate problem, and then look at maybe renting some space in the shopping center.”

Brubaker stated the building would have to be vacated during remediation.

The council will have to decide on a course of action and vote to allocate spending before Town Staff can move forward with a resolution.

 

Linda Farneth

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