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Board of Equalization fights to break the mold

After 16 years, the workers at the Board of Equalization’s headquarters continue to struggle with an infestation of mold and water-related damage, despite repeated attempts within state government to resolve the issue.

Recently, the BOE, declaring that it wanted to mitigate the damage and ensure the health of its employees, hired an industrial hygiene consultant, Hygiene Technologies Inc., or HTI, to test and investigate the building’s air quality and to fight the mold infestation.

HTI has begun a comprehensive test of air quality throughout the building’s 24 floors and its elevators, posting all of the findings online at the BOE’s website, www.boe.ca.gov.

The BoE also began to remove and relocate employees, seeking a long term solution to the building’s problems. Fifty employees and taxpayer records have already been moved from the eleventh floor, which suffered a burst pipe in March of last year. There are plans to relocate another 520 employees once appropriate space is identified and secured. Long term plans call for a complete abandonment of the building, and a move to a larger building in the greater Sacramento area.

Recently, repairs continued on the building. Repairs on the elevators were completed by HGI on July 13, and tests on all floors have also been completed. There are still no plans to reoccupy the top three floors of the building, which were abandoned in 2007 because of a suspected mold problem. The BOE has yet to set a date for completion of the clean-up.

The structure at 450 N Street is owned by the Department of General Service, and the BOE is the tenant. The DGS is responsible for janitorial services, and they discovered the toxic Stachybotrys and Chaetomium molds in the upper three floors.

These molds can cause a variety of problems, from sneezing, rashes and chronic coughing to cases of lung and nose bleeding, nausea and vomiting, and in the case of chaetomium, brain abscesses. The BOE has announced its willingness to work with doctors of its employees to help diagnosis any problems caused by these molds. It has also advised its employees to seek out Worker’s Compensation in case of illness due to the molds.

The BOE had previously worked with the DGS for a clean-up at 450 N Street but, citing the health of their employees, hired outside consultants from HTI. The move reflects the tensions between the two organizations. The BOE had previously demanded a comprehensive report from the DGS about the state of the building, but the DGS did not comply, the BOE said.

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