Nov 05, 2014

OAHS brings in mold-Busters

Five weeks ago Danielle Pollard of Kaladar moved out of the home she has lived in with her young daughter since early in 2014 after finding that mold had developed throughout the upstairs portion of the house.

As reported in the Frontenac News on October 23, Ms. Pollard lives in a rent-subsidised house that is administered by Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services (OAHS).

The article outlined how Ms. Pollard received an opinion from the KFL&A Public Health Unit, which indicated that all porous materials in the home should be replaced, including the wooden furniture, sofas, etc. At the time that the article was written, the results of an air quality test had not come in yet.

A phone message to Cory Smith, of the client services department of OAHS in Peterborough, was not returned before the article was published.

Subsequent to the article being posted online, on October 24 an email from Kelly Reynolds, communications co-ordinator at the OAHS head office in Sault St. Marie, came to the News. The email included a statement from Don McBain, executive director of OAHS. It reads, in full:

“OAHS has been working in collaboration with Mrs. Pollard and independent contractors to have her concerns regarding mold addressed. A Health Inspector visited the unit and the report was provided to Mrs. Pollard on October 3. This report did not indicate the home was unsafe to live in and indicated specifically which furniture items were to be cleaned with soap and water, removed or replaced. Mold was not reported to have been found on the shell of the unit. Air quality tests were performed and sent to a third-party laboratory for inspection. We anticipate results of this independent Air Quality Report sometime today. Mrs. Pollard was notified that OAHS would not move forward with remediation until results and recommendations are received. Records do not indicate that the unit had mold issues in the past. OAHS has been active in addressing this complaint and will continue to work with this client to ensure this unit meets all Health and Safety requirements.”

When interviewed earlier this week, Don McBain confirmed that the air quality test referred to in the email was received by OAHS on October 27.

The test indicated a very high reading for a category of mold called Asp/Pen (Aspirgillus and Penicillium). The reading inside the building was 60,800 in what is called raw data and 3.24 million spores per cubic metre.

It was hard to find online information about what a safe level for Asp/Pen is, but one web site we consulted said the raw count for Asp/Pen should be in the single digits, and another, Inspectapedia, said a reading of 36,000 per cubic metre indicated a “mold-damaged building”.

This week, Don McBain acknowledged that the mold readings are “very high”. He also said that indications are that the building is not contaminated with mold, and that the cause of the problem is poor ventilation.

The health hazards of Asp/Pen, which is a category including a number different varieties of mold, vary from individual to individual. They are allergens which can cause reactions such as sneezing, itching wheezing etc, and they can be more serious for asthma sufferers, and even fatal for those with suppressed immune systems. People working on cleaning up Asp/Pen contamination are instructed to wear respirators.

A Kingston-based company, mold-busters, was contracted to come in this week to do a remediation.

According to an email sent to Danielle Pollard by Cory Smith, the remediation will proceed in two phases.

“The good news is that since the mold exists on the surface, it can be disinfected and demolition will likely not have to take place. Therefore, according to Mold Busters, remediation should take one day. They will be disinfecting all surfaces, drapery, and ventilation systems to ensure a complete removal,” he wrote. “As far as preventing future growth, Mold Busters will be providing the unit with an air extractor/dehumidifier.”

Once the remediation is done the air will be tested again and if it is declared mold-free the OAHS will consider the matter to have been dealt with.

As far as the status of the wood furniture and sofas in the house, which KFL&A Public Health said could not be cleaned, Don McBain said Mold-busters does not take the same view.

“They are capable of determining what needs to be done and if they decide things need to be removed they go ahead and do that,” he said.

When asked about compensation for Ms. Pollard, who has not been living in her rental house for five weeks and counting, and might be dealing with the loss of furniture and other items, McBain said that those matters will be taken into account.

This leaves Danielle Pollard in a bit of a quandary. What should she do if Mold-busters says her furniture can stay but Public Health has condemned it as contaminated.

“If Mold-busters says it is safe, should I put my daughter in her bed, knowing that Public Health says it should be thrown out?” she wonders.

When contacted, Matt Doyle from KFL&A Public Health confirmed that in the view of his agency, all porous surfaces, including wood, cannot be decontaminated. As far as the claim by OAHS that he “did not indicate that the house was unsafe to occupy,” Matt Doyle said that does not mean he said the house was safe to occupy, only that he did not comment on that issue since it was outside of the scope of his investigation.

Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services owns and operates a number of houses in the Frontenac News readership area. They are available to the entire population on the basis of a needs assessment. Referrals are made through community services agencies, local First Nations and the Métis Association.

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