Officials debate air quality in Dalton firehouse
BY MICHAEL IORFINO
For years, several officials have questioned the air quality inside the borough’s Fire Department, asking other council members to relocate the borough secretary, treasurer and police chief’s office.
Frustrated with no movement, this month former Mayor James Gray reached his boiling point.
At the Dec. 13 meeting, Gray resigned, saying he believed council “constantly found ways of destroying its people, including their own employees.”
Then, the following Wednesday, he said several former borough employees – who worked in the Fire Department’s basement for years – have suffered “respiratory problems” from working in the presence of mold. Now a couple of them, including former secretary Paula Vail, are pursuing legal action, he said.
Vail declined to comment, referring all questions to her lawyer.
“I am frustrated, because it concerns people’s health, and I feel as if the council didn’t do a good enough job protecting them,” said Gray, who served three years as mayor. “After the flooding, the borough should have never sent its employees back inside the fire hall.”
Severe flooding in 2003 knocked down the Fire Department’s back door, leaving “waist-high” waters throughout the basement floor, where the borough secretary, treasurer and police chief’s office is located, Gray said.
For the next year, the three borough employees worked out of trailers in the back parking lot while an outside agency cleaned the firehouse, Councilwoman Susan Davidson said.
Then, when conditions were deemed acceptable in 2005, they moved back in – much to the dismay of Gray.
“There was still mold behind the walls because the fire company didn’t replace them,” Gray said. “The company had no flood insurance. It just wasn’t an ideal situation.”
Dalton Fire Company President John Holbert declined to comment.
Davidson said black mold spots started to form on the fitness room walls – located across the hall from the police chief’s office. Remediation work performed by Greencourse Environmental Remediation Inc. of Chalfont began in September 2011, she said.
A report compiled by that company on Nov. 17, 2011, noted “visible suspect mold growth in a few locations along the exterior walls of the fitness room,” as well as “suspected mold growth” on “concrete masonry unit walls, where wood framing” had been.
Despite those findings, however, the report said “airborne mold spore levels are acceptable” – as did reports conducted on Jan. 20, May 17 and May 25.
“I don’t understand the condemnation of the building and the scare of our employees,” Councilman Mark Sujkowski said. “The reports show the levels are acceptable. That is all there is to it.”
Gray said he acknowledges the reports but would like to know what the levels were before the remediation work began. He said borough employees likely were breathing in the “bad air” for years, well before officials discovered the mold.
“The damage has been done,” Gray said. “I just wish the board would take better care of its employees.”