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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Water Damage Turns Into Mold Damage

Recent heavy rains resulted in water damage at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, causing the evacuation of many employees last week.

The water intrusion was followed by hot and humid weather. The vicious combination led to the decision to begin evacuating the employees from the center last Wednesday.

“We have a moisture issue that could lead to a mold problem – and that’s based on what was told to our office last Wednesday,” Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen said. Wolbersen said he was told the building was “saturated with water.”

Water was running down numerous walls and penetrated through the ceiling in more than 30 areas. Officials were currently unaware of the source of the leak.

“We had numerous employees complain of symptoms typical to allergic reactions, such as itchy eyes and skin, and respiratory issues,” Wolbersen said. “Air quality was very poor at the beginning and it has improved somewhat since then.”

A private company, Legend Inc. from Fargo, conducted air quality tests on the area, according to Douglas County Coordinator Bill Schalow. Results were anticipated to be available in the near future.

“Considering the weather conditions – 90 degree temperatures plus high humidity – their concern was that mold could grow at a rapid rate,” Wolbersen said. “Their advice was to vacate the building as a precautionary move.”

Dispatch employees and the records department continue to operate at the Law Enforcement Center.

Evacuated employees were relocated to the new jail.

“We were planning to move there in three to four weeks,” Wolbersen said. “This just forced the issue early.”

The Law Enforcement Center is currently undergoing renovations and the sheriff’s office was planning to temporarily relocate to the jail.

“The move wasn’t as difficult as it would have been had not that preparatory work already been completed,” Wolbersen said.

The office plans to return to the Douglas County Services Center in about a year if the project is continued.

“There are a lot of things that will have to be considered and decided by the county board,” Wolbersen said. “Things are kind of up in the air right now.”

The Law Enforcement Center lobby continues to be open to the public. Air scrubbers are in use with HEPA filters to clean the air.

Wolbersen said the public’s access might change in the future.

Dehumidifiers are in place to bring humidity levels down.

“We are having a tough time controlling the humidity,” Wolbersen said.

A plastic curtain currently separates the dispatch and records areas from the rest of the space.

Wolbersen said measures have been taken to prevent health effects on employees.

“As soon as we were advised to vacate, we did,” he said.

The extent of the damage to the Law Enforcement Center is presently unknown and plans to renovate the building may change.

“Right now, we are kind of in limbo, but we are not sitting on our hands,” Wolbersen said. “We are thinking ahead of what our other options could be. I’ll emphasize that [the evacuation] is a precautionary move. We don’t know if there are mold levels.”

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