CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - An independent test confirms mold was detected on a sample taken from a basement air duct at Cincinnati Police District 5 headquarters and turned over to FOX19 NOW.
The type of mold detected is known as Cladosporium, a common form of mold that is most often found during indoor inspections, according to Mold Inspection Sciences, the Denver, Colorado-based company that sent the sample to a lab and then provided analysis of the results.
While prolonged exposure to high levels of airborne mold spores can cause allergies and trigger asthma attacks, it is not the type associated with pathogens, or bacterial, virus or other microorganism that can cause disease, according to the company's operations manager, Brandon Apple.
"This mold type is a natural part of our environment that we are exposed to everyday in our outside environment," he said in a phone interview from the company's Denver, Colorado headquarters.
Detecting this type of mold at the police station "doesn't necessarily mean it is a problem inside the structure unless it was creating a higher-than-normal airborne mold spore concentration," he said.
Apple said the company can't determine if there are high levels of this form of mold at District 5 because its inspectors don't have access to the building to conduct a thorough, on-site survey and to take more samples and test them.
The city is having its own mold tests done at the request of the leader of the union that represents Cincinnati police's rank and file, Sgt. Dan Hils.
Those tests for mold and radon were conducted Tuesday, city spokesman Rocky Merz confirmed. On Monday, City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee will hear an update about those tests.
Merz declined to comment Wednesday on the mold test results FOX19 NOW received.
"Mold is naturally present in many environments, so any testing should evaluate the entire environment in order to determine if there are any present health risks due high concentrations of mold. This is exactly what we are in the process of doing at the District 5 building," he said in a prepared statement.
"Yesterday, comprehensive mold testing by an independent, outside contractor began. As soon as these results are final we will share them. Any items requiring attention will receive it, in short order.
"Without knowing how or where they were conducted, we cannot speak to or validate outside evaluations of the District 5 work space.
"We have taken the complaints raised about this building seriously. Our goal remains to provide quality work spaces for all of our employees."
A spokesman for Cincinnati police said Wednesday Chief Eliot Isaac would not discuss District 5 or the mold test results FOX19 NOW received.
"Obviously the police department is very aware of the concerns and it is being addressed and it's a priority for the police department and I know it's a priority for the city," said Lt. Steve Saunders.
Hils said: "I want to thank Channel 19 for their investigative work on this. I was always suspicious that mold was growing in that basement. I continue to have to other concerns about health hazards in that building. I will investigate doing our own independent testing as well."
FOX19 NOW obtained the sample it had tested when Cincinnati City Councilmen Charlie Winburn and Wendell Young toured District 5 with Hils last week.
[Related story: Councilmen tour 'deplorable' District 5: 'If I worked here, I would quit']
The police union leader emerged from the building holding a sealed plastic bag containing black material in a paper towel and turned it over to FOX19 NOW Morning Digital Producer Jennifer Baker.
Young said he used a screwdriver to take the cover off a basement air vent. Hils said he reached inside with a paper towel, wiped to collect the sample and place it and the paper towel into the bag.
Winburn and Young called the building "deplorable." They, too, said they saw mold inside and commended Hils for speaking up.
Young, a former Cincinnati police officer who once worked at District 5, said if he had to work there now, he would quit.
Young said Wednesday he also remains concerned about the building and a pattern of now more than a dozen present or past District 5 workers being diagnosed with cancer. There is no link or connection to the cancer pattern and the building.
"The one good thing that comes out of this is that the building gets a thorough going over," he said. "Hopefully it gets a lean bill of health but if not we will know exactly what's wrong and hopefully be able to fix it."
Winburn said he still wants to see all the employees moved out the building as soon as possible.
"Mold is mold," he said. "It should still be a priority to remove the mold regardless of the severity of the health concerns."
A few hours after Winburn and Young toured D5 and announced they saw mold inside, the city released a report that shows Cincinnati's environment director says clothing fibers from officers' uniforms, not mold, is what's in the vents.
The director, Larry Falkin, also wrote that mold and radon is unlikely to be found in the building.
In a live interview Thursday on FOX19 NOW Morning News, City Manager Harry Black acknowledged District 5 is old but said it is in good shape.
"From an environmental standpoint, District 5 is in good shape. We've just recently had a team go in and do a variety of tests," Black said in a live interview Thursday.
"There was some mention of mold associated with some sort of air ducts in District 5. Upon closer examination, the mold that people thought was there are just clothing fibers because you have a great many uniforms that are stored there and the air circulation pulled fibers from the uniforms and they stuck to the air vents."
Earlier this month, an investigator with the Cincinnati Health Department
Baker turned the sample over to Mold Inspection Sciences. She paid $200 to have the company send the sample to a lab in Denver, Colorado for testing. The company returned the results late Tuesday.
Concerns about District 5 are nothing new. Past and present police commanders have worked for years to build a new police station, to no avail.
Most recently, District 5's commander, Captain Bridge Bardua, went before a City Council committee last year. In a detailed presentation with photos, she said the 57-year-old building had mold and mildew in the basement air vents, asbestos, mice and bugs. She also said it had a leaky roof.
A new District 5 building is estimated to cost $17 million to $20 million, but City Council declined to earmark money for it in the 2017 budget.
The building's problems were brought back up last month when the FOP president exclusively took FOX19 NOW's camera on a tour inside.
Hils pointed out concerns he said included mold, asbestos, a rodent and spider problem and a persistent bed bug infestation that has now necessitated eight treatments this year.
He called District 5's conditions "shameful." He said the 129 sworn officers and five civilian employees who worked there deserved better and should be immediately moved to another city owned building.
According to Black, any improvements or a new building for District 5 would likely have to wait until 2018 or 2019 budget.
He told FOX19 NOW last week he thinks it is more likely a renovated building will be the solution, but City Council will ultimately decide whether to build a new facility or renovate one of the city's existing properties.
City Council is expected to pass the 2018 budget in June.
Now, it appears some District 5 staff might be moved sooner rather than later.
On Monday, Merz told FOX19 NOW "as part of the ongoing assessments of the space at D5, discussions are taking place about moving some staff temporarily, though this is still in progress and no final determinations have been made."
He said Wednesday he had no additional detail to provide.