by Curtis Lum, Advertiser Staff Writer, Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 16, 2002
Federal officials are dealing with a mold problem in the Prince Kuhio Federal Building that has prompted the move of a judge to other offices and an extensive check of the complex’s pipes.
There have been no reports of mold-related illnesses, said Esther Timberlake, spokeswoman for the General Services Administration in San Francisco. The GSA oversees security and maintenance of the building.
U.S. Magistrate Leslie Kobayashi and her staff were moved out of her chambers after mold was discovered in her office last week. Mold has not been detected in any other area of the courthouse side of the federal building, Timberlake said.
Meanwhile, officials are checking pipes in the larger makai tower of the complex after water leaks were reported Aug. 1, Timberlake said.
Timberlake said the leaks have resulted in mold, but she said an investigation is under way to determine the extent and source of the problem. She could not identify the areas that are affected, but said no one in the makai building, which houses various federal agencies and Hawai’i congressional delegation’s offices, has been evacuated.
Timberlake said there are thousands of feet of pipe and other equipment to be checked and that it will take days to inspect.
“We can’t just assume that if one area is dry, next door it’s going to be dry. We’re looking at every inch of our water lines,” she said.
Timberlake said the courthouse side of the complex has been cleared, except for the isolated problem in Kobayashi’s second-floor chambers. She said the mold appears to have started by water damage in the ceiling and isn’t related to the leaky pipes in the other building.
“We are confident that the public area in the courthouse is safe and we see nothing to be alarmed at,” Timberlake said.
To alleviate the problem, cool air will be pumped through the two buildings after hours to prevent the growth of mold, which thrives in a warm, humid climate. Normally, the air conditioning is shut off at the end of the day.
Exposure to mold can cause rashes, skin discomfort and allergy symptoms. Last month, the new Hilton Hawaiian Village Kalia Tower was closed after a worker became ill when she touched mold on a piece of furniture.