A Florida County Sheriff’s Office declared that it was closing its District Office so that the building it occupies could undergo mold remediation.
This announcement apparently followed a string of complaints from a clerk who claimed that she was experiencing serious health issues, including chronic lung problems, while at work. In light of what is now known about the contamination in the office, this situation may create substantial complications for the sheriff’s office or other parties involved with the building.
Mold problem was shrouded in uncertainty
In March, the County Facilities Department received a call about a “musty smell” in the District Office, which led to the building being tested for mold. The facilities director told the press that the testing “confirmed that yes, there must be mold somewhere in the building.”
The county raised the issue with the building’s owner, who said that he would arrange the necessary restoration work. State and county officials have maintained that they cannot intervene in this situation, citing a lack of legal authority.
The county’s Facilities Supervisor for Indoor Air Quality, added in an email, “We have no idea how long the mold has been there as it was behind walls and in ceilings prior to our discovery phase of this project.”
Personnel from the Indoor Air Quality service had been called to the District Office several years ago to investigate fluid leaks in the building. That visit reportedly led to the replacement of several heating and cooling units, but did not yield any indication of a mold problem.
Earlier mold remediation may have averted legal entanglement
According to the facilities director, the county government had already decided to close the District Office as a cost-saving measure prior to the discovery of the mold problem. However, now it seems that legal questions could prolong this uneasy situation.
As this case shows, letting environmental problems go unaddressed can exacerbate an already difficult situation by creating legal complications, inflating the potential liabilities and generally causing the issue to drag on for longer than necessary.
When organizations partner with external consultants to complete vital remediation work, they should seek out a service that will aid in more than just the cleanup process. From site assessment through remediation to waste removal and reporting, there are many aspects of a given project that need to be completed before the affected organization can close the book on its environmental liabilities and get back to business.
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