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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mold Forms as Result of Leaky Roof

It all started with a leaky roof.

Michael Ganino, National Director of the American Postal Workers Accident Benefit Association (APWABA), said what began as an annoying issue with the organization's Lilac City office condo, located at 36 Industrial Way has recently turned into a much larger problem.

A problem he and the Asst. National Director Dave Daniel said has gone on for too long with too little response from property managers and the condo association.

Ganino said last week the roof of their condo, which the organization owns and is managed by Sutton Management, based in North Andover, Mass., began leaking more than a year ago and the problem recently became worse.

Ganino said that while he had reported the leak to the condo association and property managers, nothing had been done for some time.

After APWABA employees began suffering health problems due to what Ganino and Daniel suspected was mold resulting from the long term leak, including nearly daily headaches, nasal problems, scratchy throats, and even vertigo, they decided to take the problem into their own hands, Ganino said, hiring an indoor air quality company to test the office.

What the company, Green Air Solutions, LLC., found was much worse than they'd anticipated, Ganino said.

The company issued a report saying that there were many types of mold in the office that needed immediate remediation, he said.

According to the report, five air samples were taken by the company on Sept. 8 — in the conference area, in the ceiling cavity, in the lunch room, in the bathroom area, and outside the office.

The report showed elevated levels of aspergillus/penicillium in all of the rooms and stachybotrys in the lunch room area.

According to the report, while indoor mold levels should be lower than outdoor levels, at the APW office the counts of aspergillus/penicillium was much higher than outdoor levels of the mold.

The report also said that stachybotrys, which was also found in the office, is "a dangerous mold to be inhaled" and suggested that mold was likely caused by the leaking roof.

Based upon the findings of the testing, Green Air Solutions recommended "keeping the area clear of occupants until professional remediation takes place to reduce the mold spores to an acceptable level for occupancy," according to the report.

Ganino said he gave a copy of the report to Sutton Management officials and then hired a remediation company, EnviroVantage, based on the recommendations of Green Air Solutions.

EnviroVantage also tested the office on Sept. 15 and agreed with the findings of Green Air Solutions, saying that the current levels of the mold in the building were dangerous and likely were causing the health issues experienced by employees.

The company installed scrubbers in the office, which filter and clean the air, Ganino said.

Once again, Ganino sent a copy of the company's report to both the condo association and Sutton Management but said he was informed that any companies he hires without approval from the condo association would have to paid by the APWABA.

Ganino said he moved his seven employees out of the office soon after the consultation with EnviroVantage and that he has since rented a temporary office on Chestnut Hill Road.

Ganino said that while the property managers and condo association have since taken action on the issue, he believes they are still unnecessarily delaying the process and that by doing so they are putting his employees and other tenants of the building at risk.

Ganino said that after he sent the property manager and condo association the report from EnviroVantage, they hired their own company, Able Restoration, to test the office last week. The employee of the company sent to the office said he agreed with the assessment of EnviroVantage and that he also thought the building's HVAC system had to be overhauled and cleaned, Ganino said.

While Ganino said the company said they would send him an email copy of the report, he never received it, and that he has not received a copy from property managers or the condo association despite numerous requests.

Then, he received an email back from property manager Richard Stern and condo association president Frank Cieri, who said they thought the problem needed further study and that they had hired yet another company to test the office.

Since that visit on Sept. 21, Ganino said he has heard from Stern that it will take at least 10 days to get the results of the latest testing and that nothing will be fixed until the results are in and recommendations are made on how to fix it.

Ganino said he is saddened by what he and his employees have been put through and said he is also worried for the other tenants in the building after the employee from Able Restoration said there's no firewall in the ceiling and spores could spread anywhere throughout the building.

While Ganino said he was told by Cieri that he would alert the other tenants in the building of the problem, he is not certain that it has been done.

On Monday, Cieri declined to comment on whether other tenants of the building had been notified, but said that any allegations of unnecessary delays are not accurate.

"The board and the management company responded to this issue immediately," Cieri said. "We have hired an environmental company to test the ceiling tiles and the air quality and we have hired a roofing company to repair the cause of the original leak. We have done everything possible to handle this quickly and professionally."

Cieri said he has not yet contacted the city's health department about the issue since the board and management company are waiting for the results of the test from the environmental company.

Still, Ganino and Daniel said they wonder why a third and fourth testing were needed after he had already had two consultations done on the building that produced the same results, and said that what he views as delays are costing his business a substantial amount of money and business.

The company provides benefits nationwide to American Postal union members and retirees, and Ganino said that before this situation developed a two weeks ago, they were able to process claims in 24 hours and pay in 40 hours.

Now, however, Ganino said that they have limited access to their computers in the Industrial Way office and that business is slowed.

And while business has slowed, Ganino said the organization has also had to spend more money, paying condo fees for the Industrial Way property and paying rent and utilities in the temporary office. Even more money could be spent if the company finds a place to relocate permanently, which it is looking to do.

"We're looking to move," Ganino said. "We can't take a chance that we won't have a response to what is a clear biological threat."

Daniel agreed.

"We're not about to let our employees suffer under those conditions," he said.

Both Ganino and Daniel said they plan to take legal action if necessary and that their costs as a result of this situation are through the roof.

Ganino said they want the condo association to fix the roof and remediate the office to get rid of the mold, and that they want the condo association or management company to absorb all costs of repairs and all expenses the company had as a result of the mold problem, saying the groups were "remiss in their duties."

Still, Ganino said he is not confident this will happen without legal action.

"What we'd like and what we need doesn't seem to run along the same lines of the gentlemen who control our fate," he said.

Stern did not return calls by press time on Monday.

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