MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Unhealthy levels of mold have been detected in both the air and between walls of the historic Morgan County Courthouse, I-Team 8 has learned.
These latest findings have led some county employees to start wearing masks to work. As many as six county employees have been told to stay away from the building under doctor’s orders, according to sources within the courthouse.
The results of recent lab tests have also raised concerns and questions among county employees about why problems within the building have persisted for years.
The building, which pre-dates the Civil War, has been plagued by issues for years that have included storm damage and interior water leaks from busted pipes, according to county officials. In 2004, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a citation to the county for safety concerns related to mold, records uncovered by I-Team 8 show.
That same year, WISH-TV chronicled complaints of workers about headaches and odors coming from the courthouse.
Four years later in 2008, storm damage led to additional water leaks, according to county officials and WISH-TV archives.
In 2013, Prosecutor Steve Sonnega said the building sustained additional water damage after toilets on the second floor leaked. The damage from that can still be seen in the office of Deputy Prosecutor Bob Cline, whose walls have bowed because of water damage.
“It is a very complicated process, and at times, very slow moving and frustrating,” Prosecutor Steve Sonnega told I-Team 8 in an interview. “I do have two employees with doctor’s notes not allowed to be in the building. There is an additional stressor.”
The latest results, collected last week by Mold Diagnostics, LLC – a microbiology firm hired by the county – show that air in the attic of the courthouse has “higher than normal” amounts of mold that could indicate an unhealthy environment. One wall sample collected in the building showed 127,000 mold spores per cubic meter, that’s more than 120 times higher than levels considered to be unhealthy, according to the firm hired by the county.
“That is high and it’s something that we have to take seriously,” Morgan County attorney Rodric Bray told I-Team 8’s Bennett Haeberle. “We are taking it seriously and we are moving with us much dispatch as we can.”
Other samples collected were mixed. Some showed areas of the building that had lower than normal levels of mold growth, others showed that mold “could be growing in the vicinity,” according to records reviewed by I-Team 8.
Norman Voyles, a long-standing county commissioner, declined to comment when pressed about why issues within the building have not been addressed previously.
“I am not going to comment,” he said when reached by phone Thursday. “We are working on it and that’s it.”
Despite the high tests levels, there is no clear timetable on when mold remediation would begin.
Bray said that the county does not have to take bids from contractors because it is an emergency; however, the county has been taking quotes from various mold remediation companies to see which one might be the best fit to solve the problem.
Bray said three companies have been inside the courthouse reviewing the project so far.
Voyles declined to say if the county commissioners would seek additional quotes from other companies.