STAMFORD — Black growth was found in certain office spaces in Government Center during an investigation sparked by complaints from teachers working out of central office because of mold problems already present in their classrooms.
Last month, about nine Westhill High School teachers who had filed workers’ compensation claims due to mold-related symptoms were instructed to work out of Government Center after they presented doctor’s notes saying they couldn’t work out of their classrooms where mold was found, according to Diane Phanos, president of Stamford’s teachers union.
Teachers said the room they were in was cramped and mold was visible throughout the area.
“It was outside the room, inside the room, in the hallways, in the bathroom,” said Ruth Walden, one of the teachers asked to work out of Government Center. “We all saw the mold. We pointed the mold out.”
A new report from the district’s environmental consulting firm found “black growth” behind vinyl wall coverings in the third floor bathrooms and on the office HVAC cents and adjacent tiles.
According to mold task force member Mike Handler, the growth was not tested to determine whether or not it was mold.
According to a report from Tighe and Bond, concerns of mold were reported in the women’s restroom and assorted office spaces on the third and fifth floors of the building, both of which hold Board of Education space. Phanos previously said the Westhill teachers were working out of the third floor of Government Center.
Phanos did not respond to attempts for comment on this story.
The report says water-stained drywall near the doorway and black growth was found behind the vinyl covering in a toilet stall on the restroom on the third floor. Both areas were dry when tested with a moisture meter. Black growth was also observed on HVAC venters and adjacent tiles in office spaces on the third floor, as was rust on metal ceiling grids and piping above the ceiling.
As a result, the firm recommended the water stained ceiling tiles and pipe insulation be removed and replaced and the HVAC vents be cleaned with a high-efficiency particulate air vacuum which can trap smaller air-borne particles. Tighe and Bond also recommended using an EPA-recommended fungicide to clean the vents and hiring an architect and engineer to inspect the plumbing near the cafeteria kitchen.
Tighe and Bond recommended removing vinyl covering and growth/water-impacted drywall without the space, inspecting the space behind the drywall for mold before renovating the room with mold-inhibiting drywall and paint and following up by checking the area regularly.
On the fifth floor, no abnormal conditions were observed, but Tighe and Bond recommended removing vinyl covering throughout the women’s restroom and cubicles and painting with mold-inhibitive paint, as well as performing regular surveillance.
Handler said the facilities team at Government Center is working to coordinate Tighe and Bond’s suggestions into ADA compliance work already set in place. He added while the mold task force is willing to assist Government Center when it comes to mold complaints, their primary focus is on the schools.
“Any facility that is of a certain vintage that is capital constrained at times is going to have issues,” he said. “We’re fortunate there have been no complaints. Until we bought Westhill teachers in we hadn’t had a single health complaint about air quality in the building. If there are concerns, they’ll investigate it.”
Handler added mold in the glue behind vinyl is a common problem in many Stamford buildings, including many of the schools. The option of replacing the vinyl with non-porous sheetrock in the schools is a costly and large undertaking, but one he said is being considered.
“Someone thought it was a great idea to put vinyl on interior walls,” Handler said. “It really does hide and mask underlying conditions. The glue that holds the vinyl on is great for mold… We want to be as careful as possible not to have these conditions return.”