The Monterey County Herald, Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Air to be Sampled for Mold Particles at Agriculture Office
By Larry Parsons
This article details the process leading up to Disaster Kleepup Specialists performing the mold remediation of the University of California’s Cooperative Extension.
A cleanup of potentially harmful mold in the Salinas office of the Monterey County agricultural commissioner is expected to be wrapped up today.
But another round of air sampling must be done to determine if it’s safe for about 50 employees of the agricultural commissioner and the University of California Cooperative Extension to return to their offices.
“Hopefully, we’ll be back in the building by Thursday,” Agricultural Commissioner Eric Lauritzen said Monday.
Workers moved Friday from the agricultural building on Abbott Street after test results showed two offices with a potentially harmful mold.
No workers reported any ill effects from the mold, which evidently sprung up in parts of the building where roof leaks had recently been repaired. The black mold, which can trigger serious problems for people with respiratory ailments and allergies, was moist, Lauritzen said. The mold becomes more troublesome when it dries and particles become airborne, he said.
“We found out late Friday morning and were able to get folks out,” Lauritzen said. “We were exercising abundant concern.”
Contract workers cleaned the building over the weekend and were still scrubbing Monday. Some areas were cordoned off with plastic sheets and sections of wallboard and carpet were removed. Lauritzen said his employees continued to work at temporary sites – an on-site portable building, the county’s data center, agricultural branch offices in Pajaro and King City, and in the field.
“Actually it’s not bad. We are in the front end of the season,” Lauritzen said. “We are able to conduct business with some inconvenience.”
The agricultural building is 10 years old, but design problems have caused roof leaks, Lauritzen said. Roof repairs that cost more than $120,000 were completed before the rainy season and that likely prevented the mold from being more widespread, he said. The temporary closure and cleanup of the office marked the second time in 17 months that county building in Salinas have been hit by mold problems.
In October 2003, an office suite used by county social service workers in the Quadrangle Building on South Main Street was sealed and cleaned after so-called “sick-building mold” was found in a building wall.
The discovery forced about 20 workers to move to other areas in the Department of Social Services’ leased headquarters while a wall section was removed. County spokeswoman Maia Carroll said the cost of this week’s cleanup probably won’t be known until follow-up air testing is completed. Some windows might also need work. Carroll said it wasn’t certain if the cost would be covered by insurance.
“The agricultural building was completed in 1995 and was built by Mill construction of Salinas,” she said.