Imlay City – Black mold found in the walls at the Imlay City school administration building on Borland Road is forcing the seven-member staff to move into the middle-school library. The staff will remain at the middle school until every surface that mold could cling to is cleaned, Superintendent Timothy Edwards said. “The good news is it’s the smallest building we have and there are no students in there,” Edwards said.
A pregnant employee was the first to be moved when test results from Sanit-Air Inc. of Troy last week showed a high concentration of the mold strain stachybotrys. “She decided to get out of there as soon as possible. No sense taking any chances,” Edwards said. The finance department started moving out Wednesday, and the rest of the staff should be out by the last day of school, June 6.
The school contracts with Sanit-Air to perform air-quality tests in all buildings, and the mold was found during a routine check. Connie Morbach, environmental scientist and vice president of Sanit-Air Inc., said there are hundreds of black molds and the potential for serious health problems from this strain is unknown. “It’s a topic for debate,” Morbach said. “Just because it’s there does not mean you’re going to react. I’ve found it in more than 200 homes or buildings, and no one experienced adverse health.” She said all molds have the potential to aggravate allergies, but not all stachybotrys strains produce toxins. “Spores may and may not get into the air,” she said. “It’s wrong to assume because the mold lives there that we have serious toxic effects. It is a potential problem, and we should get rid of it.” She said this strain forms where there is significant water damage.
Edwards said there have been problems over the years with moisture from leaks around windows and flashing, and poor drainage kept rainwater from moving away from the building. He said the highest mold concentration was in the building’s north wall. Edwards said that besides removal of the drywall in that north wall, ceiling tiles and carpet will be removed. How much will depend on the extent of the problem.
Heating and cooling unit ventilators will be cleaned and sanitized so they are not blowing the mold. Edwards estimated the cost of cleanup at $10,000 and doubted insurance would cover the work. The school’s custodial and maintenance staff will do the work, using Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. Boxes of old records that must be saved for up to 100 years were cleaned and moved to a storage facility at a cost of $730 a month for the next year. When work is completed, the building will be retested before staff members return. Edwards expects to be in temporary offices all summer.
School board meetings will be held in the middle school library, 495 W. First St., until the cleanup is completed, he said. Edwards hopes phone calls to the office can be transferred through the switchboard to the library.
Written by Berrnie Hillman