by John LeBas, Eagle Staff Writer
August 8, 2002
The black mold contaminating parts of the Bryan Public Library is toxic, but the growth was discovered before it became a health threat, city officials said Wednesday. The library remains open, although some library employees were moved out of their offices after mold was found on a nearby air vent. No one has reported health problems, and an inspection team determined that the low levels of mold didn’t warrant closing the building. “This team had the authority to shut us down but chose not to do so,” city spokesman Jay Socol said.
Mold in buildings can provoke a hay fever-like allergic reaction in sensitive people and can cause more serious health problems for people with immune or respiratory ailments. The mold growth was found last week and revealed to the Bryan City Council on Tuesday. Most of the mold is confined the library’s basement, which contains no books, documents or offices and is not open to the public. An inspection was ordered after the library reported to the city that the air-conditioning system wasn’t cooling well. A team consisting of a doctor, an engineer, a microbiologist and a mold-remediation consultant tested the building for mold contamination.
Heavy mold growth was found on the cooling coils of an air conditioning unit, said Mark Hollas, department manager for facilities and fleet services. The toxic stachybotyros mold was also detected in air ducts and pipe insulation. Community Librarian Clara Mounce had to temporarily move from her office after black mold was found on an air vent in the room. Workers in an adjacent office were also relocated as a precaution. “We’ve been through a fire, and we’ve been through other things, so we think we can handle this,” Mounce said. One of two library books sampled at random was found to have mold growth.
More sampling will be done to determine if other books are contaminated, Hollas said. Air monitoring in the public areas of the library showed no presence of toxic molds, according to the consultant’s preliminary report. Culture samples were taken in the same locations and may show different results when they’re ready next week. Hollas described the original estimate of abatement costs – $300,000 – as “real rough” and said the amount could change after the mold consultant decides how the city should proceed. Equipment and clean-up costs won’t be known until the consultant delivers a final plan Aug. 16. According to a preliminary report, much of the basement is unfinished, with a dirt floor.
The floor allows water to enter, encouraging mold growth. The high humidity in the basement requires the immediate installation of dehumidifying equipment, the consultant said. Killing the mold with a fungicide will probably take a few hours, Hollas said. But the cleanup could take a couple of weeks. The library was built in 1968. After a 1995 fire, crews scraped and cleaned the ceilings and walls throughout the building, so it’s likely the mold appeared since then. Cindy Kirk, Bryan’s risk management department manager, said she was uncertain whether the cleanup costs will be covered by insurance.
“Once we get a full report from the remediation firm, then we’ll submit it to our insurance carrier for review,” she said. Bryan has been testing city facilities for mold contamination since January, Socol said. None has been found in buildings other than the library.