LINCOLN, Maine — An environmental science firm hired to resolve a dispute between town officials and their landlord discovered clogged sump pumps and drains, standing water and “moderate” amounts of mold and fungi throughout the town office basement, according to a report released Monday.
The report by CES Inc. said the “elevated airborne microbiological organism level of these species present within the basement do not appear to be migrating into, or affecting the first floor of the structure.”
But it recommended further air testing to determine whether any health threat exists for the town office occupants on the first floor. The report cited “a heavy estimated amount of Stachybotrys species fungi as present on the interior surface of the finished wall in the northeast corner of the basement dining area.”
Stachybotrys is a type of approximately 30 molds that includes black mold. The report does not appear to specify which mold is present. Black mold can cause nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation when exposed to most people in sufficient quantities. More severe reactions include fever and shortness of breath among those allergic to molds or suffering from other health problems. Immunocompromised persons and persons with chronic lung diseases like COPD are at increased risk for infections and may develop fungal infections in their lungs, according to a federal Centers for Disease Control webpage devoted to the subject.
The Town Council is due to discuss the 43-page report as part of its meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday at Mattanawcook Academy. The town office remains open, said Steve Clay, the council chairman. He changed the meeting’s location from the town office on Monday morning because the council expects a large crowd for a hearing on a proposal to widen West Broadway.
Clay declined to comment on the report. Town officials released the report after Councilor Curt Ring and Mark Weatherbee, president of Masonic Horeb Lodge No. 93, clashed during a town council meeting on Aug. 26 over whether the building was safe for town workers. More than a century old, the three-story Masonic building is located at 63 Main St. The town pays $2,566 per month to lease office space there.
Ring had raised questions after town workers found in the basement what they described as a large amount of dark-colored mold — enough to overgrow a baseball hat left in the basement in July. Town officials had complained of mold and other issues with the building since 1996, records show.
In response, Weatherbee had chided Ring and local media last week for making “a sensational, inaccurate assumption.” He criticized Ring for attempting an “inappropriate and transparent ploy to begin the sham public hearing” before saying later in the week that he would not be surprised if the basement had some small amounts of mold that could be removed quickly.
According to the report, which was paid for by the town, a CES worker inspected the basement on Aug. 27 and found “visible microbiological growth” on clothing and other materials stored in the basement dining area, several walls in the dining and mechanical rooms and on the kitchen ceiling. A floor sump and associated sump pump, floor drains and a perimeter trench floor drain were also clogged with sand and debris, helping facilitate the mold problems, the report states.
CES recommended that the basement be cleaned, drains and pumps unclogged and the water-stained or moldy wall and ceiling panels and other materials be removed. The water sources should also be identified and addressed, the report stated.
Ring said Sunday that he felt that the Masons, not the town, should pay all the remediation expenses and that the work should be done according to state health standards by a third party qualified to do the work. The town, however, should ensure that the first-floor air-quality tests are done as soon as possible, he said.
Read the report here.