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Mold a key hurdle in rebuilding after Sandy

Fred Corrado, of Amityville, has torn most of

Fred Corrado, of Amityville, has torn most of his walls down in his home due to mold after superstorm Sandy left two and half feet of water inside his one story house. (Jan. 18, 2013) Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Suffolk County this week began conducting pre-construction surveys for mold in several dozen homes flooded during Sandy.

On Tuesday, more than 300 representatives from Long Island building and construction firms are expected to attend a free mold remediation training session in response to concerns many homeowners may unwittingly be reconstructing, unaware of the scourge.

"We feel strongly that unless repairs are done properly on flood-damaged homes, many people will have problems with mold over time," said Marianne Garvin, president and chief executive of Community Development Corp. of Long Island, which is providing the training with the Long Island Builders Institute.

Suffolk County has budgeted $500 per house for about 70 homes that may need mold remediation work or further evaluation before homeowners can return, said Samuel Chu, county operations director. Evaluations will finish next week.

The homes were identified during assessments done for the county-federal program, Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power, or STEP.

In addition to checking homes for mold, Enviroscience Consultants of Ronkonkoma is looking at whether mold or water damage may have impacted any asbestos- or lead-containing building materials.

Nassau County, where far greater numbers of homes were devastated by Sandy, has no plans to conduct such work, a county spokesman said.

Artie Cipoletti, a Long Island contractor who has visited several hundred homes helping conduct STEP assessments, said he had seen many instances of houses with walls stripped down that were then closed up before the wood had properly dried.

"The homeowners are anxious to get work done, the contractors want to get it done, and we've never seen this level of a problem before on Long Island, so many contractors don't know what's involved," he said.

After affected drywall is stripped and a mold suppressant applied, the area needs to redry. A special meter can then be used to ensure moisture levels are sufficiently low before Sheetrock or drywall is replaced.

Glenn Neuschwender, president of Enviroscience Consultants, said that while his company was only partway through surveying the 70 homes in Suffolk, in around 40 percent "mold is an impediment to people returning safely to their houses."

Amityville homeowner Fred Corrado said he and his wife, Diane, did a lot of the cleanup themselves, but it was "wonderful" to get expert help from Neuschwender this week. "We tore out a lot of the affected Sheetrock and insulation, but you don't realize it's the areas you don't think of -- under the crawl space where sand holds moisture, behind radiators and cabinets -- that's where mold can hide."

Jonathan Wilson, deputy director of the National Center for Healthy Homes, said a study his group participated in on four New Orleans homes left with standing water in them two months after Katrina showed it's possible to safely return to a once mold-infested home, provided the right steps are taken to remedy the problem.


Professional mold removal


* The work is performed in a contained environment to prevent contamination from spreading to areas not affected by mold

* Wet drywall and insulation or other wall finishes are removed

* Commercial dehumidifiers dry the building materials to a moisture content between 8 percent and 15 percent

* A high efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, filter vacuum used to collect contaminated dust

* An EPA-approved antimicrobial cleaner is applied to impacted surfaces to suppress mold. An encapsulant is then used to seal the area

* Upon completion, air sampling may be performed to assess remediation effectiveness before reconstruction begins

Source: Mold remediation experts

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