The price tag for repairs will be more than $41,000.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICTOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Trumbull County Commissioners are considering abandoning the health department building rather than paying tens of thousands of dollars to remove toxic mold from the basement.
Commissioners will decide in the next few days whether to keep the Chestnut Street building open, said Michael O'Brien, a county commissioner.
If the building is closed, the more than 30 health department employees would likely be moved to the Wean Building, he said.
The Wean Building, on North Park Avenue, is home to the Trumbull County Educational Services Center and several county departments.
Displaced because of mold
So far, only three workers with the county Emergency Management Agency have been displaced because of toxic mold in the Chestnut Street basement.
When they moved to temporary offices in the county 911 center, the EMA workers left behind computers, office machines and a storeroom full of equipment for dealing with chemical and biological disasters.
Just removing these from the now-sealed basement will cost between $11,000 and $13,000, said Frank Migliozzi, the health department's director of environmental health.
To do the job safely, a decontamination area would have to be set up, with air filters and a system to keep air from leaving the basement. Workers would have to go over each article for mold before it is taken out.
"We do have what is known to be a toxic mold," Migliozzi said. "You can't play around with it."
The precautions are needed both to protect workers' health and to guard against the mold spreading, he said.
Actually fixing the mold problem would entail removing all the contents of the basement and tearing out materials such as carpet and wall board where moisture can lurk, Migliozzi said.
The wooden wall studs would then be examined, scrubbed and vacuumed for spores. Studs may have to be replaced if they are too damaged by water, he said.
Lowest bid for work
The lowest of five bids to do the work was $41,000, he said. The price could be more depending on the damage found behind the walls. And it would all be for nothing unless a long-standing flooding problem in the basement is permanently solved.
"If you don't get rid of the water, it will come right back," Migliozzi said. "They can spend all this money on it, get a clean bill of health, then if there is water down there the mold gets back in and starts all over again."
Causes for the wet basement include blocked floor drains and problems with the footer under the foundation, Migliozzi said.
The mold has flourished in the six weeks since it was first spotted behind the drywall of EMA director Linda Beil's basement office, he said.
It is visible on the outside of the walls, and is moving towards the basement hallway.
Air conditioning to the health department clinic, on the building's first floor, has been shut down despite the heat to prevent mold spores from circulating from the basement.
The top floor of the building has a separate air conditioning system which has remained in use, he said.
Commissioners are investigating if mold damage is covered by the county's insurance policy.