Fire district investigating potential mold problem at No. 3 firehouse on Sappington Barracks

By Alyson E. Raletz

Mehlville Fire Protection District officials are looking into a potential mold problem at the No. 3 firehouse on Sappington Barracks Road.

During a recent tour of the No. 3 firehouse, a resident believed she could smell mold, so the Board of Directors is considering whether to conduct some tests to see if there are high mold levels at the firehouse, according to Deputy Chief Steve Mossotti.

“We have not had any mold problems with other firehouses,” Mossotti told the Call. “We’re not even sure we have a problem at this firehouse other than one person thinking they could smell something. And we feel we need to follow through.”

“We’ve not had any complaints or problems from employees about mold there …,” he continued. “We just want to check things out.”

Dwight Dickinson of Dickinson Hussman Architects submitted a proposal by SCI Engineering Inc., based in St. Charles, to board members during an Aug. 2 meeting.

Dickinson Hussman is the architectural firm currently designing plans for the new No. 1 firehouse, which will be constructed off Lemay Ferry Road.

Under the proposal, SCI would conduct a series of air-quality tests to determine if there is a mold problem in the No. 3 firehouse.

The fire district formerly employed SCI for rock removal during the construction of its new headquarters on Mueller Road in Green Park.

SCI also recently performed extensive asbestos abatement work for the Mehlville School District, another Dickinson Hussman client, for the former Bernard Elementary School on Forder Road — one of the reasons Dickinson recommended SCI to the fire district, he told the Call.

The No. 3 firehouse was built in the late 1950s.

“The building seems to be getting a lot of standing water in the underground duct work,” Dickinson said. “The way the building was designed, there’s a lot of stagnant water after it rains … I told them (the district) I could get a proposal from an environmental engineer, to see if mold was an issue. We had a rep from SCI visit the house and he felt like there was enough of a concern to do a preliminary air monitoring request.”

The underground ducts, Dickinson said are the “suspected culprit.”

“Anytime you get a damp condition in a dark underground area with no chance for air ventilation to dry it out and it sits long enough unattended — that eventually will create problems,” he said.

The SCI representatives who visited the site, Dickinson said, believed there was an indication of a mold problem in the No. 3 firehouse, but not large enough to propose a large investigative effort.

“They felt they could get by with a relatively simple investigation,” he said, referring to SCI’s proposed series of air tests.

After working with SCI on a variety of projects, Dickinson said he had found the company to be responsive, accurate and reasonable with fees. Dickinson believes that if SCI is cleared to begin its testing, the company would take no more than two weeks to let the district know the results of the preliminary analysis.

The SCI proposal indicates the district is concerned about the quality of air being discharged from underground ducts in a portion of the No. 3 firehouse.

Under the proposal, SCI would charge the district a $1,200 service fee to conduct air sampling at the site.

The sampling would include the investigation of ambient airborne mold levels throughout the building to determine if elevated concentrations of mold spores are present, the proposal states.

SCI would test the building’s HVAC system, the underground ducts, other areas in the building in addition to taking air samples outside of the firehouse to determine mold levels, with a total of up to six air samples.

SCI also would take humidity readings throughout the building.

Once analysis of the samples is complete, SCI will contact the district with the test results and will provide a written recommendation for the district establishing whether there is a mold problem and how the district could proceed.

Board Secretary Dave Gralike asked Aug. 2 that board members table SCI’s proposal so that he and other members would have additional time to review the proposal. Board members were scheduled to consider the proposal Monday evening — after the Call went to press.

Besides firehouse No. 3, Mossotti said the district does not intend to begin testing at other firehouses.

In other business last week, the Board of Directors opened bids the district had received from three manufacturers for a new ambulance.

Emergency Services Supply submitted a $148,490 bid for a 2005 model and a $151,950 bid for a 2004 model.

Foster Coach Sales Inc. submitted one bid of $161,703 for a 2004 model, while Wheeled Coach Industries Inc. submitted a $151,712 bid for a 2005 ambulance.

Board members referred the bid packages to Assistant Chief/EMS Phil Minella and other members of district administration for review, which will take four to five weeks.