Town clearing mold in Annex basement

KEARNY –

A lingering environmental sore point that has shut down a municipal storage space is now being addressed by Kearny.

A couple of years ago, a torrential soaking of Kearny and the surrounding area deposited two feet of water in the basement of the Town Hall Annex.

Public Works Director Gerry Kerr recalled that the storm and subsequent flooding knocked out power to the sump pump in the annex’s lower level.

Sometime after the water receded, town employees who used the basement for storage of municipal records detected a peculiar odor down there.

Suspecting it was from mold – (the state Department of Health says “mold spores need water to grow [and] in most instances, mold problems occur when there is excess water”) – Town Administrator/Construction Code Official Michael Martello brought in a testing firm which confirmed that the ooze was, indeed, mold.

That was in February 2015, Mayor Alberto Santos recalled, at which point, he said, “we immediately closed the Annex basement and limited access as instructed by the testing group.”

In fact, he added, “any person going to the basement has to wear a mask.”

Santos said: “The testing group also indicated that [the mold condition] should be remediated but that no health hazard was presented to persons on the [Annex’s] main floor. The Annex basement has not been used as a work/office space and the general public has never had access to the Annex basement. It has been used for storage only.”

And, since that time, that’s where the matter stood – until recently.

Kerr said the town has engaged the services of ServPro, a Tennessee-based firm that operates nationwide, providing “residential and commercial restoration services,” including mold remediation.

He said his department has issued a purchase order in the amount of $8,257 for the cleanup work. ServPro has a regional office in Bloomfield.

“We had to get multiple prices [from various vendors] before we could hire someone,” Kerr said.

And, before the contractor could start the job, Kerr said personnel “boxed up those records that could be salvaged and wiped down filing cabinets” to clean them of any possible traces of mold.

John Peneda, administrator of the town’s Urban Enterprise Zone program, said he had identified all UEZ records that could be retained. 

Peneda said he believed that records from the town’s personnel, construction and recreation offices were also kept in the basement space.

Kerr said the contractor bagged what couldn’t be saved” for proper disposal at a state-approved facility. Santos said that to his knowledge, all municipal documents “are salvageable” and that “other items that were stored in the basement of no or minimal value will be discarded.”

Once the remediation process is completed, the air in the Annex will be tested to ensure that the space is clear and safe, Kerr said.

According to the mayor, “funding to do the remediation and document cleaning has been bonded for.”

“Part of the delay [in getting the work attended to] was the funding and [price] quoting process,” the mayor said. “The rest of the delay is attributable to our staffing limitations and that no health hazard was posed outside the Annex basement area.”

Asked whether any other municipal facilities have been impacted by mold, Kerr said that he knew of no others. 

“All of our other usable basement spaces have windows,” he said. “The one in the Annex doesn’t so it wasn’t able to be ventilated,” which, he added, would likely have contributed to the growth of the mold spores. 

– Ron Leir

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.