Two city departments will together look to hire an emergency contractor to clean up mold and lead at Honolulu Hale — an operation that is expected to cost taxpayers at least $100,000.

The contaminants were revealed in a report released last month by a consultant hired to study the safety of city hall last summer. Civil Beat first shared photos and details from the report Thursday. Muranaka Environmental Consultants was paid $31,000 to produce it.

The problems arose when city attorneys in the Corporation Counsel Department discovered a problem area in their law library, and an early review found some mold, city spokeswoman Louise Kim McCoy told Civil Beat Thursday. The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) decided to be “proactive” and hired the consultant to investigate other areas of Honolulu Hale.

“What’s already in the process is a work order to DFM to assess the areas where mold has been found,” McCoy said, referring to the Department of Facility Maintenance. “DFM will be addressing the mold, and then DDC will be addressing the areas where there is lead paint.”

DDC Director Lori Kahikina told Civil Beat the city will seek approval of an “emergency procurement” that would solicit bids from at least three contractors to do two things. Wherever paint is peeling, it’ll be scraped off, removed, tested and treated as a hazardous material if it breaks a safety threshold. Any lead paint that’s remaining intact and not peeling will be painted over in a process Kahikina described as “encapsulation.”

Of 245 samples of dust collected from Honolulu Hale’s floors, windowsills, ceiling tiles, shelves and file cabinets, nearly half had detectable levels of lead and about 10 percent were above the acceptable risk level.

Kahikina estimated the cost of the work at between $100,000 and $150,000 and said the money will come from DFM’s already-approved Fiscal Year 2012 operating budget. She said work will commence in the last half of April, and will take about three months to complete because all the work will be done at night and on weekends, when the building is empty.

Asked about any health hazards from the presence of the lead for the next four to six weeks until work starts, and then the three months while the work happens, Kahikina said she expects that workers and visitors in city hall will not be at risk because the paint chips would have to be peeled off and ingested to cause problems. Lead paint is often considered a larger health risk to children than to adults for that very reason.

As for the mold, which can cause “allergic respiratory disease” for some people, McCoy said the scope of work will include cleaning any items containing mold and the entire surrounding area, rearrange furniture, work on the air circulation system and even use dehumidifiers as needed. The city will try to prevent new mold growth by identifying areas where water is leaking or areas where air moisture is high.

The report says there are no rules that set hard limits or measurements for the amount of indoor mold, so the consultant instead merely identified and noted when it was seen.

“This is not the type of mold that requires people to move out of the area or use a mask or anything,” McCoy said after speaking with the firm that produced the report.

McCoy said later Thursday that the mold work would be covered by the same emergency contract as the lead work. The city will determine the estimated cost for mold portion of the procurement after it evaluates the scope of work needed.

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