A new report says mold and lead dust has been found in Honolulu Hale, raising health concerns for those who work and do business at City Hall.

Indoor mold, the report notes, proliferates in moist or humid areas and can induce “allergic respiratory disease” for some individuals. Lead, meanwhile, is often found in paint flakes and poses more of a concern for children younger than 6 than for adults.

There are no rules that set limits for the amount of indoor mold, the report says, so instead mold was merely identified and noted when it was seen visually. The amount of lead-in-dust, however, is governed by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clearance levels: 40 micrograms per square foot on the floor, or 250 micrograms per square foot on window sills. There are a million micrograms per gram, or about 500 million micrograms in one pound.

Of 245 lead wipe samples collected from floors, windowsills, ceiling tiles, shelves and file cabinets all over Honolulu Hale, 116 (47 percent) had detectable levels of lead, and 23 (9 percent) were above the acceptable risk level established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Design (HUD) as part of its guidelines on lead paint hazards in housing.

The investigation was conducted last summer, and the report, produced by Muranaka Environmental Consultants Inc., was dated Feb. 24. It was sent from the Department of Design and Construction to a number of city agencies last week. The City Clerk stamped it as received late Monday afternoon, and posted it online for the public to view in the last few days.

“The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) will be working with the Department of Facility Maintenance (DFM) to address and eliminate the possible source(s) of the mold problem which may include water infiltration into interior spaces and the air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) systems,” DDC Director Lori Kahikina wrote in her memo to colleagues last week. “Once determined, DDC will request a cleanup and repair of all mold/mildew areas be accomplished.”

As to the lead dust, Kahikina wrote that “DDC will be taking action to remediate those areas beneath the suspended ceiling that tested positive for lead and exceeded EPA acceptable levels.”

“DDC notes that the peeling lead paint above the ceiling needs to be addressed,” she wrote. “DDC is working with the Administration and other Departments to identify potential funding sources. Remedial work will start once the funds are secured.”

DFM Director Westley Chun told Civil Beat Wednesday that while public buildings and grounds are his department’s kuleana, DDC is taking the lead on this project.

“Once we got wind of the findings, which were recently presented to us, we said we’ve got to do what we can now,” he said.

Mayor Peter Carlisle‘s press secretary, Louise Kim McCoy, said more details would be forthcoming Thursday about what provoked the investigation and what steps the city is taking to mitigate the mold and lead issues. Civil Beat raised the questions late Wednesday afternoon, after many city employees had gone home for the day.

The report included schematics of the rooms where samples were taken, and a log of 49 photos documenting the worst lead and mold. Here are three such photos:

Source: Marunaka Environmental Consultants February 2012 report

The table of lead wipe sample results shows where the highest concentrations of the contaminated dust were found — some much higher than the limits of 40 micrograms per square foot on the floor or 250 micrograms per square foot on windowsills. Here’s a list of the worst ones on each level of City Hall:

  • 1,600 micrograms per square foot in the basement’s air handler room
  • 290 micrograms per square foot on top of the ceiling tile on the ground floor
  • 520 micrograms per square foot on the window sill in the stairwell on the second floor
  • 1,600 micrograms per square foot on the window sill in the lunch room on the third floor
  • 410 micrograms per square foot on a ceiling tile above the door in Room 4.12 on the fourth floor
  • 43 micrograms per square foot on top of a file cabinet behind a television in Room 6.01 on the sixth floor
  • 1,100 micrograms per square foot on the floor of a stairwell on the seventh floor
  • 310 micrograms per square foot on a ceiling tile on the east side of the eighth floor

“The areas with elevated lead-dust concentrations greater than the EPA clearance level for lead-dust on windowsills, floors, shelves and file cabinets should be cleaned to prevent worker exposure,” the report concluded. It said occupants should attend a training class, and a work plan should be developed.

As for mold, the report recommended mitigation of roof leaks and other areas where evidence of “moisture intrusion” was found. Humidity levels should be maintained below 65 percent, the report said.

Read the full 184-page report here:

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