County employees meeting with Judge McCartney regarding courthouse mold

Adams County Courthouse aerial

QUINCY — Members of the Adams County Circuit Clerk’s office are meeting Thursday night with Eighth Circuit Chief Judge Frank McCartney about the issue of mold in the Adams County Courthouse.

An inspector with the Illinois Department of Labor replied to a complaint regarding the mold put forth by the Machinists Union, which represents the employees in the clerk’s office.

The inspection said an industrial hygienist who works for the Department of Labor said, “Since there is no established threshold for levels of mold in the standards, OSHA and EPA are unable to enforce the air quality as it pertains to mold. This doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to have mold in the workplace, as some individuals are sensitive to mold and have adverse effects when exposed.”

“It amazes me that there is not anything about mold in a public building, but if I walked into there and lit a cigarette, I would get arrested,” said Kevin Broemmer, business representative for District 9 Machinists.

In an undated report, the inspector recommended the following actions:

  • 1. The building HVAC systems that feed the courtrooms appear to be the main source of air movement and potential spread. Replacement air filters with a MERV rating of 8 or higher will help trap potential airborne mold spores. County officials say this has been done.
  • 2. Consider adding whole system purifiers to the HVAC systems or portable air purifiers to the affected areas. A wide range are available that will kill mold spores. The County Board is in the process of doing this.
  • 3. Maybe get a second opinion from a third party testing and/or cleanup company that is agreeable to the board and union. The County is waiting on another inspection from John A. Jurgiel and Associates. County Board Chairman Kent Snider said he hoped it would be done in the next few days.
  • 4. Maybe individual department heads could allow affected employees to work in other parts of the building that are deemed mold free or work semi-remote to limit exposure. County officials provided masks for employees, but they say they are not moving employees out of the buildng. Some employees, such as court reporters, do work remotely.  

One action county officials took that wasn’t in the OHSA/DOL recommendation was the sealing of all of the courthouse’s windows so they could not be opened. Dave Bellis, chair of the Building, Transportation and Technology Committee, informed courthouse employees of that action in a June 26 notice.

Snider said that step was taken because windows were left open during rainstorms. The humidity caused further problems with the building’s HVAC system, and it also caused pipes to sweat. When water dripped onto ceiling tiles, it caused more mold to grow.

Bellis said crews are replacing moldy tiles as soon as they are reported.

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