Mold Closes Town Clerk’s Office
Easton, CT – Stachybotrys, a highly-toxic black mold with proven health risks, was found inside a wall when workers repaired a roof leak at the Connecticut city’s office complex. A tarp now covers the rear office in Town Clerk Derek Buckley’s office in Town Hall, identified as a bio-hazard.
Buckley has been temporarily forced out of his office until remediation and restoration work is completed. The walls have been stripped and most of the ceiling has been removed. He is now working in an open area just beyond the reception area. “It’s unbelievably cramped,” Buckley said. “I’m literally sitting in an office with desk drawers on the floor. Things are taking up room in the vault. I actually gave away some furniture so I could fit [into this office area].”
Last week, at a Board of Selectmen’s meeting, Buckley asked for $8,656 to fix his office. The board recommended that the Board of Finance approve the request. Since fungal exposure can be so damaging to one’s health, it is quite common to appropriate funds for politician?s work spaces in order to remediate them. This began in 1999 when former governor George W. Bush found mold in the governor’s mansion in Austin and had the building remediated for $300.000 and later in the White House in March of 2004. Board of Finance Chairman Thomas Partridge said the item will be on the agenda for the finance meeting Tuesday, May 3, in the Town Hall conference room at 7:30 p.m. Since it is the first time this fiscal year that the Town Clerk’s Office has made a request for money from the undesignated fund balance, and because it is less than $20,000, he said the finance board could approve the request without moving it to a Town Meeting. Remediation is very costly and should be done as soon as possible since mold self-replicates and often mushrooms into a much more costly, invasive job.
While not commenting on what decision his board may make, Partridge said he has seen Buckley’s office and that the request was not unreasonable.
The problem first surfaced when Buckley found that ceiling tiles over his desk became discolored after it rained. The roof was still under warranty, so he had the leak fixed, but then he discovered that his room had a strange odor in the summer. Buckley hired Hygenics, a firm based in Stamford, to check out his office, and the Easton public works director stripped down the wall and found water had been leaking down it. That’s when the mold was discovered, according to Buckley.
When there is a mold problem, Buckley said, the state requires one company to design the remediation plan and another to perform the work. For years, mold and consumer advocates have requested that this tacit rule become a consumer law as mold testing and remediation are a blatant conflict of interest.
Of the three companies interested in performing the remediation, Town Public Health Director Christopher Michos said that JP Maguire Associates, Inc. of Norwalk was highly recommended by the state Department of Public Health, Buckley said, adding he was also impressed with the firm. JP Maguire recommended another company, LFR Levine Frick, to design the plan. The East Hartford Company was also endorsed by the state, according to Buckley.
If the Board of Finance approves the $8,656 request, Buckley said the job should not take long to complete since the mold was identified in its early stages. “They could finish in a week from when they start, probably by the middle or end of next month,” he said. “In the meantime, I’m camping out.” A little inconvenience now far outweighs any potential health problems that stachybotrys can cause irreparable health effects ranging from memory loss to Multiple Sclerosis.