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Validating Mold Fears, CDC Points to ‘Water Intrusion’ And Calls For Look Behind Walls at Sheriff’s Operations Center

| October 5, 2018

Sheriff's employees who have reported health problems are concentrated on the eastern side of the Sheriff's Operations Center, to the left of the image above. (c FlaglerLive)

Sheriff’s employees who have reported health problems are concentrated on the eastern side of the Sheriff’s Operations Center, to the left of the image above. (c FlaglerLive)

The Centers for Disease Control issued a set of interim recommendations for the Sheriff’s Operations Center that cast doubt on the relevance of recent air testing the county claimed cleared the building for re-use. Instead, the CDC is recommending that some interior dry-wall be removed and the building tested for  “water intrusion through the building envelope,” an approach sheriff’s employees and the sheriff have been urging for months. 

Further recommendations are expected. But the CDC’s findings, the result of a working visit by a team of CDC scientists, including a physician, and one-on-one meetings with 26 sheriff’s employees who’ve experienced sick-building-like symptoms, for the first time lend independent credence to employees’ claims–and fears–that the building is not currently a safe working space. The sheriff evacuated the building in June.

The interim recommendations also suggest that a solution and an all-clear signal may be months away or longer, with substantial work ahead, and possible further legal wrangles as CDC recommendations clash with an administrative law judge’s order not to alter the building’s interiors. 

“There might be the potential for water intrusion through the building envelope, and thus a potential for hidden mold growth,” the CDC concluded. “This potential for hidden mold is consistent with employee reports of musty odors (especially after rains), and health symptoms.”

The CDC’s six interim recommendations focus on water intrusion on the east side of the building and water runoff that may be seeping beneath the building’s foundations, and on interior issues with dehumidifying and ventilation. The recommendations specifically suggest that further resources not be spent on air testing. “Measurements of mold in air are highly variable and dependent on the mold species’ lifecycle stages (e.g., spore formation),” the CDC wrote. “In many cases, very short-term sampling for mold spores is conducted and results may not be representative of actual exposures.”

The federal agency also stressed that any work it is recommending, whether by a building contractor or a ventilation contractor, be done by firms not previously associated with the building–a clear signal to local officials that the work’s effectiveness depends on the credibility and independence of those carrying it out. 

The CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health issued its findings in a two-page letter by Alyson R. Johnson, a respiratory health expert in the federal agency’s respiratory health division, dated Oct. 2, to Staly. The county administration and the sheriff’s office released the letter today, forwarding it to the sheriff’s ranks after 5 p.m. after it had been forwarded to Staly by County Administrator Craig Coffey (though the letter was addressed to Staly). It’s not clear why it was not released until today. 

“We will do everything within our authority to implement the CDC recommendations,” County Administrator Craig Coffey was quoted as saying in a county release issued just after 5 p.m. “Next week, we will reach out to the Sheriff’s Office to develop a plan.”

The sheriff is a tenant in the possibly-sick building. Building maintenance is the responsibility of county government, whose contracted engineer in July declared the building safe to reoccupy after testing the air for mold and other organisms, recommending changes to the air-handling system and cleaning protocols.  That engineer found no issues with water intrusion. Neither the sheriff nor his employees trusted the testing.

The sheriff hired his own consultant to review the county’s findings and also recommended changes to the air-conditioning system and further, extensive air testing–an approach the CDC now says approach places little weight marginalizes the validity or relevance of the sheriff’s expert as well. But Staly was clearly pleased with the CDC’s findings, using the language of vindication when he wrote his ranks of the recommendation for “cutting open some of the interior drywall for inspection for hidden mold; which, as you know I have been publically asking for this to be done since last summer.”

The sheriff’s analyst and the county’s contracted engineer had not spoken with sheriff’s employees before issuing any analysis. The CDC had, a difference that added weight to its report while giving employees’ ailments more official recognition than the county had so far been willing to acknowledge. 

“Employees reported skin, eye, respiratory, and systemic symptoms that improved when away from the building.” the CDC reported.  “Some also reported symptoms when handling paper documents or files retrieved from the Operations Center. Some employees reported stagnant or stuffy air and musty, mildew, or stale odors. Some employees reported that the air felt sticky in the building. Most health complaints came from occupants in the East side of the building.” 

The CDC’s letter and recommendations are below. 

17 Responses for “Validating Mold Fears, CDC Points to ‘Water Intrusion’ And Calls For Look Behind Walls at Sheriff’s Operations Center”

  1. Dennis McDonald says:

    It seems that the CDC has a very different view point than Coffey/Hansen and Dr Z. their chosen sick building “expert”. It strikes me as off base that a big expert like Z would not know what the CDC outlined…”Measurements of mold in air are highly variable and dependent on the mold species’ lifecycle stages (e.g., spore formation). In many cases, very short-term sampling for mold spores is conducted and results may not be representative of actual exposures.” The Sheriffs sick building consultant Dr Sweeney was on point when he said of Dr Z and ESi…”I would not hire them”.

    It has been eleven months and what we have constantly heard from Coffey and Chairman Hansen is that “we don’t know if there is a problem with the building”, code for all clear, get back in there and suck it up. Then Coffey hires DrZ with BOCC blessings and said this new HQ. was fine with a deep cleaning.

    My take is the “deep cleaning” should have been to TERMINATE Coffey for orchestrating and hiding this, the largest man made disaster in Flagler History. The consequences suffered by the 38 Deputies and staff are the something this Commission needed to address months ago when I publicly asked them three times for $$ to test everyone effected. Hansen and company sat on their hands, why ? When they did that I believe they all bought the FAILURES of the former commission. My take they were FOLLOWING Coffey’s lead. It takes three votes and Coffey had Hansen/McLaughlin/Sullivan in tow like good little pawns.

    You can not fix a low lying building built on a 1970’s slab foundation built in a flood plain with vapor barrier issues. The roof tie down walls that fail the building code and were know to be mold covered will be exposed if the sheetrock ever gets removed. Coffey/Hansen have dodged that action for eleven months all while putting our Sheriff at risk.

    Question: Who does Coffey work for ? Leadership wanted in Flagler County !

    Dennis McDonald

  2. Chris Howell says:

    I bet Coffey and the rest will dismiss this. They have no love for the people of this county or its workers. Their choices prove that. But NOOOO you keep voting the same and expecting something different!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Call me silly but why wasn’t this done already? Surely the symptoms point to mold. How old is that building? Why would the county fight it too? They’re quick to build the Taj Mahal but when it comes to county employees’ health not so much?

  4. atilla says:

    Ok Coffey, Revels and Paine, are you going to refund your profits from the sale of this known pink elephant. It was a scam from day one.

  5. Concerned Citizen says:

    It’s sad that this issue has come to the point of bringing outside Federal agencies in.

    Coffey and Sherman were well aware that there were potential issues with this building. They were only concerned with monetary issues and not the well being of Sheriff’s Office Employees. These Employees are also county employees and they are responsible for providing them a safe work environment..

    Sheriff Staly is also responsible for this situation. He is the lead person for this agency. There should have bee due diligence done before moving his people into a converted old hospital. I mean come on did you think you could just convert a 50 something year old building and not have issues?

    Please remember these issues in November at the polls. We don’t need a County Administrator who continues to build his own empire. We also don’t need a grand standing Sheriff who has more concern for media appearances than he does managing his agency.

    I know people will say well Sheriff Staly is catching bad guys. Honestly we need to give more credit the line Deputies working the street than someone who rushes to join a chase that is being handled so he can wave his gun around then pose for photo ops.

  6. Agkistrodon says:

    Things that make you go Hmmmm. And here we were told by the Counties “inspector” there was NO problems…………

  7. Only Me says:

    Condemn the building or let the County Administration’s staff move into it. If, they feel it is safe to occupy.

    Personally, it was a bad move rebuilding an old hospital with issues. Bulldoze it and move on for the safety of the FCSO staff.

    There are plenty of empty store fronts in PC because of poor planning, find a safe building for people to work in.

  8. Dave says:

    Just a little drywall and back to work! How long ago could this be solved if everyone wasnt being so dramatic with “we will never work in that building again” all this time and it’s just an easy fix. A couple of months and it’s done. Just think, it would have been done already and everyone could be back in the building working already!

  9. Percy's mother says:

    Thanks David McDonald

    Your comment saved me from spending time writing basically the same.

    I agree. Dr. Z’s credentials are questionable, as I’d posted on this site several months ago.

    Also, I do remember Mr. Coffey brushing this issue off as noise from “political operatives”.

    Nothing more to add as you nailed it once again.

  10. Rick Belhumeur says:

    Some of you will remember when the Flagler Beach Police Station(which wasn’t that old at the time) had to be torn down and a new one built because of mold in the building. If any mold remained in the Sheriffs Operations Center building after the renovation, it will continue to grow if any moisture remains. The block these buildings are made of is porous, therefore making it nearly impossible to negate the mold.

  11. Rob Jr says:

    Have any of the posters who always ridicule and mock Dennis McDonald shown their faces / fingers?

    Anyone who does not vote for him is out to lunch.

  12. John Brady says:

    The building is on a Brownfield. Does anyone not understand that maybe there is some substance that we may not know how to test for which is causing the illnesses?

    Keeping pouring money into this rabbit hole?

  13. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    May 6, 2013 a day of infamy for all of Flagler County.
    How could any intelligent human being have supported the purchase of a building they refused to buy 11 years earlier ( for less money), a building that had no running ( except maybe in the walls and under the foundation) water or electric power available , a building that the then current owners were about to lose their original investment and last but not least appraisals using buildings on Granada Blvd in Ormond Beach as comparable properties?

    Lest we never forget the pre purchase inspection with 2 flashlights and the purchase price equal to the exact dollar amount owed to the bank by the ‘sellers’….. Looks like the CDC should have been contacted before the jokers were hired but better late than never.

    High time to give up false hopes -just level the dump and let’s move on – our public safety guys and gals deserve a safe home away from home and it ain’t never gonna be the old hospital in our lifetimes..

  14. Sherry says:

    Anyone who thinks that throwing up new sheet rock will get rid of mold infestation needs to understand the true health hazard of mold and do some research on what it takes for complete remediation of the mold of such an old building with such such a porous structure. The soil beneath and around a hospital may have dangerous contaminants as well. This kind of “shoot from the hip”, uneducated decision making is what created this horrific problem to begin with.

    It’s likely that the old hospital needs to be torn down and the land thoroughly tested to determine how it can be safely used in the future. Then, we tax payers will need to come up with the funds for a “safe and healthy” place for the Sheriff’s administration.

    Coffey is directly responsible for this debacle! For this, and many other reasons, he needs to be fired! .

  15. Dave says:

    Its really an easy fix, it will take some time which us being wasted constantly around here, if they would have pulled back the sheetrock, go as deep as needed, bring in a mold remediation team and we can have these fine workers back in the remodeled building working hard for us. Let’s stop complaining, get the work done and MOVE THEM BACK IN ASAP!!

  16. Lynn says:

    Mold is never an easy fix and not necessarily the only problem. This report from the CDC is an “Interim” report, not a final report. The CDC has not finished reviewing all of the data and reports. When NYS’ equivalent of the CDC inspected my former “sick” building, they came out with an interim report with recommendations such as this. When the final report was issued, the building owner had to spend millions for remediation.

  17. Dave says:

    Actually once the source is identified, which it seems they have , it’s a do able easy process that takes a little time, hopefully they have started and the Employees can be back in the old building by the 1st of the year!!! I’m just so glad its fixable and a new building wasnt needed

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