Beaufort News

Beaufort County offices closed for mold

An outbreak of mold in a Beaufort County office building on Duke Street in Beaufort has left a group of county workers without an office.

County workers noticed the patches of black grit on one wall behind pictures and bookcases in the county Public Defender's Office Nov. 12, which is located in the county's Human Resources building. They alerted county leaders, said Gene Hood, Public Defender for the 14th Circuit Court.

In response, employees in the defender's office and the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Department next door were told to work from home or at the county courthouse while the county attempts to identify the dark mold growth.

The county plans to hire a mold inspection specialist to identify the type of mold and find the source of the moisture that is causing its spread, said Deputy County Administrator Josh Gruber on Thursday.

It is still unknown if the mold has caused any health problems in county staff members.

"For now it seems the mold is more of an issue of comfort than anything else," Gruber said. "It can produce foul odors and affect the air, so people were sent out of the office out of caution."

Indoor mold has a negative impact on indoor air quality and may cause allergic reactions and respiratory complaints, especially in those with weakened immune systems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

While no state or federal laws regulate how local governments should deal with mold problems, Gruber said the county will follow recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC recommends eliminating the source of moisture and decreasing indoor humidity to 30 to 60 percent. The county has already set up dehumidifiers in the building to reduce humidity.

Hard surfaces can typically be cleaned of mold, but absorbent materials like ceiling tiles and drywall often need to be replaced when they become moldy, depending on the spread of the spores, according to the CDC.

The mold problem appears to be limited to the two offices, Gruber said. The Human Resources Building houses seven county government agencies, including veterans affairs, social services, juvenile justice and probation, parole and pardon services.

Public defenders have been able to work uninterrupted out of the courthouse, Public Defender Hood said.

"We are now going to have to determine what kind of mold we're dealing with," Hood said. "Until then we are doing everything to make doggone sure that everyone is safe."

Follow reporter Erin Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_erinh.

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