Oxford to remediate mold in town offices

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OXFORD — An indoor air quality and mold assessment at the Oxford Town Office shows some areas have unacceptable levels of mold and poor air quality, particularly in the lower level.

“People can still enter the basement, it’s not a biohazard, but don’t be there for an extended time,” Town Manager Butch Asselin told selectmen following the recent release of the limited assessment.

Oxford officials requested the assessment following reported air quality concerns in the building after some occupants reported health symptoms and musty odors in the lower level.

The problems in the building located at 85 Pleasant Street have been ongoing for years, but Asselin said its difficult to eliminate water when the building is sited on an aquifer.

“The building is on an aquifer. It’s hard to eliminate the moisture,” he said.

The limited assessment by Air Quality Management Services, Inc. of Lewiston on the building  assessed air quality and mold concerns.

The following observations and conditions were reported during the assessment:

  • Excessive, accumulated dust was observed in some areas, particularly in heating registers. Dust can contain a wide range of allergens and irritants and can affect sensitive individuals when disturbed, the report stated.
  • •A strong musty odor was present during AQM’s inspection, in the gym, lower level and the first floor side stairwell.
  • Mold growth was observed in many areas of the lower level and gym, consistent with groundwater infiltration and excessive humidity.
  • Mold growth on a water tank in the boiler room may be related to leaks at this tank. Extensive mold growth appears to be present on Sheetrock walls surrounding the elevator at the basement level. most likely due to groundwater infiltration and/or to water wicking upwards from damp concrete, the report said.
  • Air sample results for the first and second floors did not identify elevated mold spores at the time of sampling, but the report said conditions in the lower level and gym area pose a risk of allergen, irritant and chemical exposures of concern, occurring perhaps intermittently or with components not detectable via the sampling conducted (such as bacteria).
  • Pipe insulation that is not fiberglass in the boiler room and possibly other areas of the building contains asbestos and should be addressed according to the report.
  • Also, the ceiling board in the boiler room contains asbestos and will have to be removed. Insulation on the small and large vertical tanks in the boiler room was tested and did not identify asbestos, according to the report.
  • Also, floor tiles in the gymnasium are highly suspect to contain asbestos and should be considered asbestos containing unless tested to determine content.

With the information in hand, the next step remains questionable.

“I don’t know but assume it will be expensive and take time,” Asselin said when board members asked what could be done.

Air Quality Management Services, Inc. provided a list of remedial recommendations to address the issues. Some of them include enlisting the services of an IICRC-certified mold remediation company; isolating the remediation areas from other areas of the building using plastic/polyethylene barrier and negative-air pressure and cleaning mold from the painted concrete walls by the town vault and gym stairwell. The removal of the paint may be necessary as well.

The company has also recommended that any debris from stairwell be removed along with parts of the ceiling and upper wall that are stained. If any portions need to be removed it should be tested for lead first.

In the lower level storage room contents should be evaluated for mold and water damage. Areas that need to be removed include carpet and ceiling system and debris needs to be removed from the area under front stairs. The mold infected insulation from the water tank and upper walls that are stained in the boiler room also need to be removed.

In the gym , all stored items, acoustic panels from the walls, floor tiles and adhesive, Sheetrock walls around the elevator need to be removed to get rid of mold, according to the report. When this is done the company says the entire elevator shaft must be isolated during remediation actions including those in the gym, as the shaft provides an air path for contaminants to travel to all floors of the building.

In addition to the remedial recommendation, the report supplied a list of preventative recommendations including permanently dehumidifying the lower level and gym to control relative humidity /moisture and hiring a professional engineer to control ground water intrusion in the lower level and gym.

Selectwoman Samantha Hewey has asked for an exit plan from the building.

While there is no definite plan to do so, Asselin said voters would have to approve a bond to construct a new building. Town owned land is available, he said.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net