Study: Spores haven't entered new courthouseA study of seven air samples revealed the old Stutsman County Courthouse appears to have a mold/fungi problem, but that the attached new Stutsman County Courthouse apparently doesn’t.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
A study of seven air samples revealed the old Stutsman County Courthouse appears to have a mold/fungi problem, but that the attached new Stutsman County Courthouse apparently doesn’t.
“Well, you know, that’s what we told everyone from the get-go,” said Casey Bradley, auditor/chief operating officer of Stutsman County. “… We were confident we didn’t have issues in our building, and we’re glad they’re being proactive in trying to prevent it from becoming an issue in our building.”
A report from Badlands Environmental Consultants Inc., said seven air samples had been taken from various locations in the old and new courthouses as well as from outside the building on June 5.
Results of the samples indicated total mold spores of nearly all the samples were lower than the sample taken outdoors, but that “elevated concentrations of Penicillium/Aspergillus species were identified in the basement and main floor indoor air samples within the old Courthouse (Samples #3 and #4).”
Aspergillus can produce toxic and carcinogenic mycotoxins and can cause aspergillosis, the second-most common fungal infection requiring hospitalization in the U.S., according to the Badlands report.
Penicillium is allergenic, and some species can produce mycotoxins that may be carcinogenic, the report says.
Stutsman County officials had raised concerns about the air quality in the old courthouse because it is still connected to the new courthouse in at least four places.
Last week the State Historical Society of North Dakota requested, and was granted, $60,000 in emergency historical funds from the state’s Emergency Commission to begin repairs on the interior of the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse, which is owned by the SHSND.
The request followed swab sampling results showing seven mold types in the old courthouse, some of which can produce potential toxins or carcinogens, in the old courthouse. Walkthroughs of the 1883 building also showed lead paint, fire hazards and pipe insulation suspected of containing asbestos.
“Really, we’re in a planning kind of mode or process, as of right now,” said Tom Linn, architectural project manager with the historical society, adding the SHSND intends to work on the mold and asbestos problems in the old courthouse this summer and fall.
BEC presented several conclusions and recommendations in its report, beginning with eliminating the water and moisture intrusion problems in the 1883 building.
After that, the report says, all exposed soil and foundation walls in the basement should be enclosed, all water-damaged and potentially mold-contaminated building materials should be abated and all substrate materials should be cleaned, scrubbed with an anti-microbial solution and then sprayed with fungicide.
Porous materials deemed potentially mold-contaminated should be cleaned or disposed of and non-porous materials can be wet-wiped.
Finally, the report recommends fogging the entire building with an anti-microbial solution when all the disinfection and cleaning is complete.
The decision about whether to follow that course of action or whether to try alternative methods for abating the mold and asbestos — such as filling the old courthouse basement with sand — will ultimately be up to Linn, Fern Swenson, the director of the archaeology and historic preservation division of the SHSND, Merlin Paaverud, SHSND director, and the local 1883 Courthouse Committee.
Linn said someone from the North Dakota Department of Health will look at the building and discuss options for abating the mold and asbestos in the old courthouse.
“It sounds like this has been an ongoing issue for years, and it’s good to see that we’re getting some resolution because we do not want it to become a problem in our building,” Bradley said.
No membership fee is required to join the 1883 Courthouse Committee, which is a volunteer organization. Anyone interested may call its treasurer, Barb Lang, at 252-4570.
Donations for the courthouse may be sent to the State Historical Society Foundation, P.O. Box 1976, Bismarck, ND 58502. For more information, call 701-328-2666.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org