Connecticut Foundation for Environmentally Safe Schools

Derby, New Haven County, Connecticut

Ed board moved by mold; Discovery slows Derby work

Anne M. Amato, CTPost

November 4 2003: Black mold has been found in the basement of the Elizabeth Street building slated for the new City Hall, according to Supt. of Schools Martin Gotowala.

The Board of Education's office, with nine employees, occupies eight rooms on the second floor of the former Derby Savings Bank building. The building is under renovations to convert it into a new city government center.

Gotowala said he received a call early Monday from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration concerning the mold situation.

The discovery comes days after OSHA ordered the education offices to relocate because of concerns about accessibility of fire exits in the building.

Gotowala said OSHA "took mold samples to analyze and found Stachybotrys chartarum, known as black mold, in the basement."

He said he was told that type of mold is "known to create health problems."

He said a maintenance supervisor and the city's fire marshal, who had offices in the building's basement, were "immediately" moved upstairs, to the second floor.

Gotowala said OSHA also found mold on the second floor, blamed on "leaks in the roof."

But, he said, that form of mold isn't considered a health concern. Nevertheless, he said, employees are worried.

He said OSHA also took air quality tests during a recent inspection of the building.

"There is an ongoing investigation at that location," said Nancy Steffens, spokeswoman for the Connecticut Department of Labor's Division of Occupational Safety and Health. She said she couldn't comment on Gotowala's statements about black mold being found.

"I can't say anything until the investigation is complete and that should be within the next two days," she said.

Mayor Marc Garofalo said he hadn't heard from OSHA about the mold.

"Everything I know I've heard second-hand," he said. He said he tried to make contact with OSHA Monday. "I haven't been able to confirm anything," the mayor added.

Garofalo said the health and safety of everyone in the building is a top priority.

"That's precisely why I was opposed to people occupying the building before the construction work was completed," the mayor said. "I didn't want anyone in the building when the work was being done."

Gotowala said he was told the city would be cited for the mold problem but wasn't told what, if any, action OSHA would take.

Garofalo said officials have begun looking for a new location for the school board's offices, and hasn't ruled out moving them to the existing City Hall on Fifth Street. He said he wants the matter taken care of as soon as possible.

Garofalo also questioned the timing of the initial complaint to OSHA by an employee and the most recent turn of events, just a day before the election. "The timing really stinks of something funny," the mayor said Monday night.

Anne M. Amato, Naugatuck Valley bureau chief, can be reached at 736-5440.

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