Honolulu, HI – Employees of Hilton Hawaiian Village propose that the hotelier suspend plans for a new condo tower until it has figured out how mold took hold in its Kalia Tower just one year after it opened.
Eric Gill, head of Local 5 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, told a Monday news conference his members are concerned about their exposure to mold in the Kalia Tower. He said perhaps Hilton should learn how to prevent the spread of mold in a new tower before erecting another one.
Hale Koa, the military R&R hotel next-door to the Hawaiian Village, put up its Maile Tower in 1995 and also had a widespread mold problem, though it was not publicized at the time. The problem at Hale Koa began almost as soon as the Maile Tower opened.
The problem at the Kalia Tower may have begun sooner than previously reported. Hilton said it first learned of the problem in April but Gill says his members first reported it in February. Apart from the implication that Hilton was not forthcoming about the situation, something Gill calls “a disturbing picture,” the discovery of mold in February would mean that the problem had become noticeable only a few months after the tower fully opened, making the situation potentially more similar to what happened at Hale Koa. If true, that could be a clue for the environmental detectives Hilton flew in to investigate the mold.
Distrust of Hilton’s answers may also lead to a better investigation. Gill announced Monday that Local 5 will now also hire an environmental team to do tests. There are many kinds of mold, some of which are more of a health hassle than others, and Gill said there are different tests for each kind.
“We have come to the conclusion that we have to hire our own experts,” Gill said.
Hilton was to appear at a previously scheduled zoning hearing Tuesday in pursuit of approval to build a timeshare tower. There has long been opposition to the tower but until now it mainly came from residents of nearby condos would say the tower will obstruct their ocean view and make traffic worse in the east end of Waikiki. But Local 5 questions whether approving the tower is wise now.
“They have not been able to control the mold in the building they just built,” Gill said.
Marilyn Custodio, a Hilton housekeeper, said she saw mold on April 30. She said her head started to hurt, her skin was itchy and her coworker noticed that her eyes were red afterward.
“I am scared to talk today, but someone must tell,” she said “I want them to see to it that all the workers have medical checkups.”
Hilton has indeed instructed all employees to get check-ups.