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Sheriff’s Potentially Sick Building Testing Done in 1 Day, Results Not Expected Until July

| June 18, 2018

The evidence room at the Sheriff's Operations Center before it was in use. (c FlaglerLive)

The evidence room at the Sheriff’s Operations Center before it was in use. (c FlaglerLive)

The scientist Flagler County government hired to further and more broadly analyze air, soil ceiling and wall samples at the Sheriff’s potentially sick Operations Center in Bunnell told the county today the gathering of samples was completed in one 11-hour day and the results are expected at the end of July. That means nearly 70 sheriff’s employees will have to continue working outside the building for at least that long.


The Sheriff’s Office completed its evacuation of the building last week. The evacuation included Sheriff Rick Staly and his command staff, to the county courthouse and the old sheriff’s administration building near the jail. By then more than two dozen employees had filed workers’ compensation claims over health issues related to the building’s interiors, prompting the sheriff to order the evacuation and press for immediate re-testing.

The building, a reconstructed structure that used to be a hospital until the early 2000, then sat fallow until it was rebuilt in 2014-15, is the county’s responsibility. The sheriff is a tenant. A more localized round of testing in two rooms last fall did not solve the problem.

County Administrator Craig Coffey hired Zdenek Hejzlar, an environmental engineer, to conduct the new round. That took place from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on June 14. Some employees witnessed the testing as it was being conducted, according to Hejzlar’s three-page memo to County Engineer Faith Al-Khatib, summarizing the work.

The memo doesn’t add new insights into what may be causing employees’ health issues. But it outlines the extent and type of testing that was conducted, if in mostly scientific language. The scope of testing appears not to have been unusually extensive or systematic. One distinct finding: “We found a leak and condensation issues in the Bio evidence room between the freezer and the cooler,” Hejzlar wrote. “The wall between the units was wet and stained with what appeared to be active mold growth.”

While collecting dust samples, Hejzlar also found “a disproportionate amount of white specks in some of the dust,” which was traced to ceiling tiles. Those will also be analyzed. Further, Hejzlar found the relative humidity in the building to be pushing 60 percent, the upper limit of comfort zones, and in some cases spiking past that, resulting in “clammy” conditions, and in various odors of volatile organic compounds. The memo does not specify what sort.

The testing collected dust samples for mold analysis from 23 locations in the building, including some locations suggested by employees. “We concentrated on locations with heavy dust settlement to evaluate worst case condition and representative of multiple days that it took for the dust to settle. We specifically did not test areas that were recently cleaned,” Hejzlar wrote.

He also collected five ambient air samples and two samples from soils beneath the building’s six-inch concrete slab. “We also drilled the slab and obtained some relative moisture content readings in the slab,” Hejzlar wrote.

Based on Hejzlar’s summary, the testing conducted at the Sheriff’s Operations Center contrasts somewhat with an Environmental Protection Agency briefing and its cautions about testing: Although air sampling for contaminants might seem to be the logical response to occupant complaints, it seldom provides information about possible causes,” the briefing states. While certain basic measurements, e.g., temperature, relative humidity, CO2, and air movement, can provide a useful ‘snapshot’ of current building conditions, sampling for specific pollutant concentrations is often not required to solve the problem and can even be misleading. Contaminant concentration levels rarely exceed existing standards and guidelines even when occupants continue to report health complaints.”

Air sampling should not be undertaken, the briefing continues, until considerable information on such factors as chemical and biological contaminants has been collected, “and any sampling strategy should be based on a comprehensive understanding of how the building operates and the nature of the complaints.” Hejzlar’s memo to Al-Khatib does not include a discussion of those strategies.

The following day Hejzlar and his colleague met with county administration staffers and “removed two outlet covers to enable inspection of copper wire for any evidence of corrosion. We found them to be in excellent condition.” He said he also inspected the building visually from outside and asked for additional records regarding the sort of paint used for the building and information about carpeting, tiles and insulation.

Coffey has been leading the effort after sustained pressure from Staly, and appears occasionally to have gotten involved in the details, down to requesting the type of testing he wanted: “I want to test for mold on Marijuana,” he told Al-Khatib on June 7. “This mold has a special name. There was [an] evidence room deputy who had breathing problems while working in that room. Since being reassigned on the road has cleared up. They are saying if bad enough it could get into the blood as well. That might be something to be added to the scope. This issue if part of the problem is very fixable.” There does not seem to have been any marijuana-mold testing.

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11 Responses for “Sheriff’s Potentially Sick Building Testing Done in 1 Day, Results Not Expected Until July”

  1. Dennis McDonald says:

    Tonight at the BOCC meeting I appreciated BOCC Chairman Hansen’s comments about why we sat through 2.5 hours of hot air 6/4 at the workshop. That comment showcases their intent to DO NOTHING. YES they can NOT make a motion at a workshop BUTTTTTT, why was there no Special meeting noticed right after the workshop ? Because there was NEVER any intention to get OUR Deputies out of harms way! This proves it unconditionally.

    Our Sheriff read that loud and clear at the 6/4 Workshop and has moved away from these do nothing commissioners. Tom Bexley our County Clerk deserves all the credit as he offered to share his space for “safe harbor”. The BOCC is TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE for not taking ACTION and ruining our relationship with the folks that protect us. More INVERTED THINKING a specialty of the BOCC with this example as a prime offering.

    JUST A NOTE…The BOCC bought that hell hole hospital in 2013 after scheduling a workshop with a SPECIAL meeting noticed right after. I was there it was over before it started.

    THE BOCC MUST HAVE FORGOTTEN HOW TO DO THAT !

    More to come…. like did you hear Dr Z mention the required Vapor Barrier under a Concrete slab when he drilled those 6’deep hole into the material under the old slab? A Vapor Barrier would be a basic requirement in a inhabited area of a newly built structure Permitted by Flagler County in 2015 ? If it is missing maybe it is with the new Tie Down Walls that have a required treated base plate Florida Bld Code 2318.14.1.

    As stated by many a BOCC member “that building has GOOD BONES” !

    Dennis McDonald

  2. Dave says:

    #WeDeserveBetter

  3. Percy's mother says:

    That’s it? That’s the extent of the testing? This is laughable.

    Hey, people at the “top” (Alkhatib and Coffey). We are not a county full of hicks. There are a lot of extremely well-educated individuals living here, who have much more knowledge in these issues than you. Placation is not an option. AND, by the way, Coffey dismisses intelligent people as “political operatives”. No, we just know more than Coffey, and are most likely much better educated than Coffey.

    How about testing for radiation?

    How about testing for toxic waste on the premises?

    I’m shocked the “testing” took only one day. It should have been all encompassing. Due to the LACK of extensive testing, I doubt the story is over.

  4. David S. says:

    Total B.S.

  5. Carole Ruffalo says:

    After reading the letter from Dr. Z to Faith Alkatib, I am wondering WHY Coffey hired him to perform the TWELFTH(?) TEST for mold. THERE IS NO SIGNIFICANT MOLD according to some of the previous tests. Coffey is right, THERE IS NOT A MOLD PROBLEM. Dennis McDonald, my husband John and their Nuclear Engineer friend have stated from before the building was purchased that it was contaminated. The cost of that purchase and all the taxpayer dollars spent on the aftermath is closing in on $8 MILLION dollars, as Pierre predicted. Could they possibly test for something besides MOLD? Like nuclear waste (hospital radiation and micro-toxins)?

    Carole Ruffalo

  6. atilla says:

    The county commissioners squat and ask what color at Coffeys request. No counsel member deserves to be reelected.

  7. john brady says:

    Maybe it is time to think of elected County Executive and while we are at it, a Strong elected mayor form of government in Palm Coast. It seems Coffey and Landon have us by diminutive follicles. We can make the term two years so if the individual is blindly arrogant out they go

  8. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    The first evidence of ‘active toxic waste’ seems to be Coffey still on the job!

  9. Anonymous says:

    There is no possible way to accurately test for an irritant in just one day. The powers that be in the county administration are all assuming the irritant is a biological such as mold or fungi. Apparently, there were some photos taken during renovation of mold and fungi being covered up and trapped near the roofing. Biological agents such as those mentioned have life cycles that will only show up irritants when the organism produces spores or fruiting bodies at very specific times during its life cycle. Number one: if the organism is not producing spores or fruiting bodies at the time of testing any test will be negative, both air and surface contacts. Number two: if there is not some external force used to transfer the irritant to different locations in the building where the testing is being done i.e.: air conditioning, people, rodents, insects, or water/ water vapor through flooring , the test will again show negative results. Number three: the building has been cleaned with so extensively, with so many different cleaning agents, the firm testing for irritants said there was a strong odor of bleach which could have also caused a negative test result. To find the irritant you test before cleaning, not after cleaning because the irritant could have and should have been removed by the cleaning, so a negative test result should be expected by this scenario. This cleaning before testing scenario could have been intentional on someone’s order to force a negative result. Testing should occur many more times over a period of several months prior to any cleanings and at different times of the day to account for varying light, temperatures, humidity, personal movements within the structure, and air flow conditions, all of which can affect test results. Employee’s shoes and clothing should also be tested for biological contamination. All I have spoken of in this writing is for detection of biological contamination and is not a complete regimen of testing procedure to detect the presence of biological irritants and does not consider the option of the possible irritant being of an inorganic/chemical nature. Other testing protocols are in order to determine the presence of these agents. I will say this however, from what I have read in the press about this dilemma, it appears someone is trying to guide the investigative testing to a show negative finding. The testing procedures used thus far are extremely inadequate if not criminal.

  10. 107 says:

    It will only go from bad to worse unless we voters vote these fools out of office that are sitting on the throne doing nothing but spending our tax dollars like there is no limit. In 2018 VOTE for McDonald and Mullins for County Commission.

  11. The Oracle says:

    Thank you Sheriff STALY for taking decisive action to protect your employees. I know you will continue to stay on top of this issue, and lead from the front, (as usual.) God bless everyone at FCSO.

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