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Lee County Releases Air Quality Results for Former Health Building

Jun 22, 2017

The Lee County Board of Health made public, Monday afternoon, the results of an air quality test conducted April 24 at the health department’s former location (2218 Ave. H) in Fort Madison.

The results did not reveal any health concerns for the safety of the people who worked in or visited the building.

The question about air quality came to light in mid-April when former County Attorney Ross Braden recommended the health department vacate its building and move into the North Lee County Office Building (933 Ave. H) in Fort Madison.

Braden eventually cited air quality as the reason for his recommendation.

The county contacted its insurance provider, EMC Insurance, which sent an industrial hygienist to conduct a mold investigation. The company declined to comment on the testing or its final report, completed May 3.

EMC’s report states that its mold investigation focused on the east side of the lower level of the building.

“The purpose was to assist Lee County in responding to the issue and to provide recommendations or control strategies,” wrote EMC.

The former Lee County Health Building
Credit Jason Parrott / TSPR

The investigation consisted of a visual inspection, the collection of “mold spore air samples,” and surface samples. The air samples “were below EMC’s recommended benchmark [and the] surface samples did not identify any mold growth.”

EMC wrote the issue dated back to the fall of 2016, when “the area experienced heavy rainfalls and water seeped into a small storage room in the east side of the building’s lower level.” The report went on to state that the possibility of mold growth in that part of the building was aided by that water leak not being properly cleaned.

The company’s recommendations included more thorough cleaning following water entering the lower level, better sealing of the building’s exterior to prevent that and the installation of better air filters.

It turns out, the Lee County Health Department will not be involved in any of those recommendations.

Instead, it is moving into an administrative building at the former Iowa State Penitentiary near downtown Fort Madison. The Board of Health signed a three-year lease with the Iowa Department of Corrections.

To help facilitate that, the county informed the owner of the building that it would be opting out of its lease, roughly six months early.

Lee County Health Administrator Julie Schilling said it’s unclear whether the county will be penalized, financially, for that.

She’s glad the report shows workers and visitors were safe.

“I know that’s always a question out there and there’s a concern and we are also concerned for the health and safety of employees and we want to make sure we are doing everything correctly to assure that and to the public that we serve,” said Schilling.