Courthouse mold will cost county $40,000

YORK -- York County officials don't know what caused the moisture in a York County Courthouse file room, but disinfecting the resulting mold growth will cost the county nearly $40,000.

Mold was discovered on some York County Common Pleas Court files in mid-August, Assistant County Manager David Larson said. The company called to investigate the problem, WPC Engineering, Environmental and Construction Services, found the plaster walls in the auxiliary civil court file room were damp.

It's not known how long the substance has been growing, Larson said.

"We're not entirely sure what caused the moisture, if there's a leaky pipe," Larson said. "We can't further investigate until the mold is removed."

The County Council on Monday authorized nearly $40,000 necessary to remove mold from the 93-year-old building and store files in a portable trailer while the area is cleaned.

Removing the files, sanitizing and cutting off the water source is expected to take about two to three weeks, and Larson said work could start as early as Monday.

Associate Clerk of Court Micky Howe said someone smelled the mold and reported it to the Department of Health and Environmental Control. She deferred further questions to Larson.

No employees have reported health problems associated with the mold, but the county isn't taking any chances.

"We can't have people in that area," County Manager Jim Baker said. "The contaminated section is preventing employees and others from accessing files."

Molds produce allergens, irritants and potentially toxic substances, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions.

The mold in the file room isn't lethal, but Larson said it's a type of mold that needs to be handled carefully.

"Prolonged exposure could cause health issues," he said. "It's not an imminent health threat if dealt with. It's in an area with files, but no one visits it every day or several times a day."

The county called WPC on Aug. 21 to examine the potential moisture and mold damage. Tests done Aug. 30 confirmed the mold was contained in the file room.

"We've done further exams and testing (on) the building," Larson said. "We feel this is the only area with immediate need."

The county will continue to monitor for the substance after the cleanup is completed.

Two file rooms, which contain original records, remain closed off with plastic sheeting. The files not affected by mold will be temporarily housed in a rented portable trailer placed next to the courthouse. The others, Larson said, will be cleaned.

"Some files may have to be duplicated and recertified," he said. "We don't know how many are actually affected."