Oozing Mold May Have Sickened SC Magistrate

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A mold issue has arisen in a magistrate's office in Columbia, South Carolina. According to the following news story published two weeks ago,

Gooey, green-black mold in air vents and on furniture in a Columbia area magistrate’s office may have sent the judge and some staff members to the hospital over the past few years.

A report obtained Monday by The State on the mold — which prompted Friday’s closure of the Dentsville magistrate’s office — cited “ongoing medical problems” with the staff of Magistrate Phil Newsom, noting some had “strokes, allergies, rashes,” and “several staff members have had to be carried out by ambulance.”

That report, given to Richland County officials late last week, prompted the evacuation from the building at 2500 Decker Blvd. A county spokeswoman said Monday the magistrate’s office will move downtown temporarily, to the central magistrates’ court building on Huger Street.

Newsom confirmed the report’s findings Monday and said he was one of the people sickened and taken to the hospital by ambulance. “I have had three employees, including myself, who have gone to the hospital in the last two years by ambulance,” Newsom said.

Monday afternoon, county officials including Newsom met with the building’s owners and agreed to “remediation” — meaning owners will hire someone to clean up the mold and remove any potential threats.

Building co-owners Bill Theus and Walter Taylor immediately will address “air distribution problems” and then, “out of an abundance of caution, hire a remediation company to clean the space.”

Theus said the county’s report indicated there was more mold outside the magistrate’s office than inside the offices.

The large building the magistrate’s offices are in has a half-dozen or more tenants, Theus said, each with its own heating and air conditioning system. There have been no additional reports of mold so far from those tenants.

After getting complaints recently from Newsom several weeks ago, the county hired a mold-testing company that analyzed the problem at Newsom’s office, a county spokeswoman said. That cost some $3,000.

After evaluating the report, county officials removed Newsom and his staff. That meant court sessions, which attract hundreds of cases weekly, would be canceled. According to the report, mold deposits in the offices occupied by Newsom and his staff were “very significant.” Inspectors found large amounts of mold in the air and on air vents.

“The building had a noticeable musty smell,” inspectors noted in an initial inspection dated Aug. 20. Later, meters found the humidity in the building was 92 percent — perfect conditions for spawning the microscopic mold spores.

. . . Newsom said people in his office had suspected mold problems for a long time.“We’ve had people with illnesses, constant chest, sinus, throat irritations,” he said.

In June, the ceiling began leaking badly, Newsom said. A maintenance worker who checked out the leak told the staff there was a mold problem. It was discovered that mold “covered the wall behind where my desk sits,” he said.

“Little black stuff that was on my mouse pad was actually mold,” Newsom said.

The article discusses a controversy between council members and the magistrate:

Richland County council member Jim Manning, who attended a meeting Monday afternoon that included building owners, county officials and magistrates, said the county may have overreacted in having the magistrate’s staff vacate the premises, along with all records.

The offices just might need a quick cleaning, Manning said. Still, Manning said given the potential harm posed by mold, “If we had to err, it’s better to err on the side of caution.”

Newsom said, “You can be sure of one thing — if we are going to stay here, it’s got to be fixed.”

To view the entire article, click here.

For an update on the remediation of the building, click here.