Mold contaminating behavioral health building

JONESBORO — A facility Clayton County residents visit to improve their health will have to be cleaned extensively because it may actually be unhealthy, officials have disclosed.

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners appropriated $83,500 from the county’s General Fund on Tuesday to remove mold contamination from a public health facility at 853 Battle Creek Road.

“The principal cause was high humidity in the building that allowed it to bloom,” said Les Markland, the county’s building and maintenance director. “We’ve had rains for months and 70-90 percent humidity outside and that of course meant the building had high humidity.”

Mold can cause serious health issues for people exposed to it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adverse affects on humans can include nasal stuffiness, eye and skin irritations, wheezing, fever, shortness of breath and mold infections in the lungs.

The building in question houses the county’s community service board and behavioral health and addictive diseases offices, also known as the Clayton Center. The office was built nearly 40 years ago and is behind the Shelnutt Center and the Headquarters Library Branch.

Although officials kept referring to the facility as “the public health building,” the Community Service Board is a separate entity from the Clayton County Board of Health, which has offices at a separate location on Battle Creek Road.

The Clayton Center leases the building and is responsible for its day-to-day issues, said Chairman Jeff Turner.

“It is our responsibility for major repairs as long as the building belongs to us, but they have to maintain the cleaning with whatever cleaning crew they hire,” he said.

That means the county has to step in when the cleaning issue becomes so great that it affects the structure itself.

“So we have to clean up mold because they’re not properly cleaned?,” said Vice-Chairman Michael Edmondson.

“That’s basically it,” said Turner.

Markland said another building the Clayton Center leases on Garden Walk Boulevard in Riverdale has also had mold problems in the past.

Clayton Center Executive Director Aundria Cheever was not available for comment Friday. A staff member said she’d have someone else return a reporter’s phone call, but no response had been received by press deadline.

The issue raised concerns with commissioners, particularly after Markland said it was not the only county-owned building with a mold problem. He told commissioners they can expect to see similar requests for money to clean up buildings in the future.

“What measures can we do proactively to keep this problem from happening again?,” said Edmondson. “$83,500 is a lot of money.”

Markland said proper day-to-day cleaning maintenance by community services staff, should reduce the likelihood of mold growing back.

“It’ll take proper cleaning and wiping down to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Staff also must keep the building’s internal temperature and humidity at about 72 degrees and 55 percent, respectively, said Markland.

Turner said community services staff will be made aware of what it takes to keep mold from returning to the building.

“It’s an education piece and we’ll have to educate them,” he said. “A lot of people out here do not know that mold exists like that and can grow in your home or anywhere else, so we’ll have take the steps to properly educate them and make sure they understand that they have to use ammonia or some other substance to clean it.”