After employee concerns over air quality in Tisbury town hall, on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, a recent report from Nauset Environmental Services (NES) indicates concerning mold levels in two sections of the building’s lower level, with one of the sections needing remediation.
Depending on upcoming mold tests, Tisbury could choose to temporarily relocate town staff pending remediation and related cleanup efforts.
The locations of concern are an unutilized select board office, and a larger central room referred to as “The Big Room.” Tisbury town administrator Jay Grande said that furniture had to be removed from the select board office.
“The [penicillum/aspergillus (Pen/Asp)] spore concentration…[is] indicative of a concentration of Condition 2 settled spore contamination in need of professional remediation,” the NES report says of the select board office.
NES also reported that The Big Room, with its mildly elevated mold spore concentration, may only require improved housekeeping.
Grande is not aware of any long-term health issues relevant to the town hall findings, but does note possible impacts for those sensitive to substandard air quality.
None of the town hall samples found toxic black mold, known as stachybotrys, and the building has seen no recent reports of water incursions.
As the report states, “There have…reportedly been one or more employees who have expressed interest/concern about the quality of the air in the Town Hall work space.”
Depending on upcoming follow-up tests and resulting recommendations, Tisbury is considering moving employees to other locations within the building, or to other town buildings.
A key area awaiting testing is an upper meeting area in the building’s Katharine Cornell Theater, where the select board meets. Grande hopes that the theater passes testing, so that it can provide an alternate workspace if needed. If the theater needs cleaning, Grande says that the select board could hold virtual meetings, with minimal inconvenience to the board.
According to Grande, a worst-case situation for the building could be similar to what occurred at Tisbury School in 2019, where some rooms had to be vacated after water incursion. If needed, offices would be relocated during remediation, and some employees would work remotely from other town locations, such as from a meeting room in Tisbury’s Emergency Services Facility.
The NES report also provided air quality debris ratings — “the amount of particulate matter (skin scales, dust mite materials, pet dander, etc.) present in a sample. A higher debris rating means the sample is more difficult to analyze and spores…may be obscured.” Debris ratings under 2 generally indicate acceptable air quality, and ratings of over 3 indicate possible need for action.
Other than the select board office and Big Room, NES sourced debris ratings from two more town hall building locations: the clerk’s office and collector’s office.
NES rated the select board office 4+, and the three other locations 3+ each. The report recommended that town hall “housekeeping vendors only use vacuum cleaners equipped with HEPA filtration.” (HEPA stands for high efficiency particulate air [filter].)
“I want to make sure it’s taken care of and cleaned up to the maximum extent feasible,” Grande said.
Grande, who highlighted the town hall’s age, added that the select board office area is likely within inches of the ground, and that the building lacks a full foundation. Grande is also unsure if there is a moisture barrier between the ground and that part of the building.
Grande also added that the select board office lacks central heating.
Depending on the severity of what NES recommends, cleaning could be complex, and might involve furniture, carpets, walls, halls, and work materials like computers and servers.
“We don’t want to move things and contaminate other areas of the building…At least as I’ve been told, [items] need to be cleaned before they are moved to different locations,” Grande said.
After more testing and details, Kirk Metell, director of Tisbury’s Department of Public Works, will work with NES to decide who and what within the building must be moved, to where, and how cleaning will proceed.