Fraser " Fox run residents say mold plagues apartments
April 1, 2008
“I refuse to not stand up for myself in this situation. If I have to be the face of Fox Run, so be it,” said Mindy McCall, 34, a tenant at Fox Run in Fraser who suspects she and others may be tolerating poor air quality due to mold.
McCall recently applied to get her apartment weatherized, a program sponsored the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments for low-income households implemented to increase energy efficiency and reduce heating costs.
But when the weatherization crew went into the crawl space of McCall’s one-bedroom unit in the local housing authority’s housing project, they discovered black mold covering every wall.
The team informed McCall that due to the mold problem, they could not do the insulation work.
They also warned her about the bad air she may be breathing, she said, and told her to keep the heat down in her apartment to limit the transfer of airborne mold spores.
Since then, she’s kept her heater on 59 degrees and has “put two and two together.”
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Mold may point to the cause of her on-and-off symptoms ” coughing, congestion and sneezing ” since she moved into Fox Run eight months ago, she speculates.
On Feb. 23, McCall was treated for acute bronchitis at Granby Medical Center and was prescribed inhalers, prescription cough medicine and antibiotics. These medicines were added to a range of over-the-counter products she’d been taking to fight-off being sick.
By the time she’d gone to the doctor, “I thought I had pneumonia,” she said.
In her crawl space is a pump leftover from a previous effort to remove standing water, and one wall is partially covered with drywall.
Fox Run Director Jim Sheehan of the Grand County Housing Authority (now overseen by the Grand County commissioners) and the Fox Run Board of Directors, a board of four, have been aware of the potential for mold at the housing complex, built in 2001.
Just after the apartments were occupied in 2002, mold was detected in the upper buildings, including Building “C” where McCall lives.
Poor drainage in front of those buildings has been blamed for excess moisture that breeds mold in crawl spaces, according to Sheehan.
Work was done in 2002 to get rid of the mold, but a reoccurrence is a possibility.
Aware of drainage issues, the Fox Run board has been making plans to seek funding through the Colorado Rural Development Council to engage in capital improvement projects this spring, one of which would serve to install a catch basin to direct water away from the front of the buildings.
Without an adequate slope, an existing drainage system around the building has not been working well, according to Sheehan.
Upon hearing about the weatherization team’s refusal to insulate due to mold, Sheehan said he made an appointment for Wednesday for a mold inspection, and if the inspection is found positive for mold, Fox Run will need to get rid of the problem at a cost of around $8,000 per unit, he said.
Former tenants the Spatoccos, Silvina, 39, Crowell, 41, and their 5-year-old son Valentin, knew of a mold problem in their unit and brought it up to a Fox Run property manager as early as last summer, Silvina said.
But she feels the problem fell on deaf ears.
They lived in apartment 200 in Building B for three years, and eventually during that time, according to Silvina, their son was treated for ear infections, Crowell had sinus problems and she suffered from migraines.
Since the family moved from Fox Run last November, Silvina says her son has not experienced another earache and her husband’s sinuses “are much, much better.”
“I used to have headaches so bad, and now they are gone,” she said.
Sheehan denies having any knowledge about mold detected in the units last summer.
“We do not ignore mold or any other health and safety issues, regardless of what they are,” he said. “We don’t expect tenants to make a sacrifice of safety or health just to live in affordable housing.”
Fox Run units are rented for below market value.
According to doctors and mold specialists, McCall’s and the Spatoccos’ symptoms are within the realm of possible mold-induced side-effects.
A variety of respiratory problems caused by mold can lead to acute bronchitis or pneumonia, and symptoms such as headaches, earaches and sinus problems are possible. Young children and the elderly are especially susceptible to excess airborne mold spores as well as those who live with asthma and allergies.
And from high levels of mold spores, people can gain allergies or asthma symptoms they would not have otherwise.
Air Quality Specialist Dennis Schiller of Rescon Environmental, Fort Collins, says if mold is present in the Fox Run buildings, it “would behoove them to control this.”
The mold expert says he’s witnessed mold infiltrations so bad they’ve led to the destruction of buildings.
It takes as many as 600 mold spores to cover the period at the end of this sentence. Because they are so infinitesimal, they can travel through any register, crack, or hole and infiltrate everything in a dwelling, including clothing, carpet and furniture.
“Some molds are more difficult to deal with than others,” Schiller said, suggesting tenants have air clearance testing done to find out everything they are breathing, such as dander, skin cells and mold ” what kind of mold and the number of spores per area unit.
We live with mold everywhere, and there is an acceptable amount in the air that humans can handle.
“But beyond that, mold is detrimental,” Schiller said.
Some kinds can be taxing to the immune system and can cause side-effects.
“For some it could take a couple hours or couple days, for some it could take a year,” Schiller said.
With its low-income lease rates, Fox Run affords McCall, a server at Smokin’ Moe’s in Winter Park, the ability to live in ski country and have her own space without roommates at $500 per month.
“I can’t afford to move,” she said.
If the test shows the air in her apartment is unhealthy, she said she hopes Fox Run management will find more than just a temporary solution for not just her, but for her neighbors and future tenants.
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