Dr. Joyce Starr
December 28, 2005
mold is snaking its way through our condominium corridors and common areas.
first discovered this mold and brought it to the attention of our condo Board
President and property manager in February 2004.
two years later, our Condo Board has still failed to approve a contract for
remediation work to address this health emergency.
Miami Herald documented this battle in a special cover story on October 10,
there is almost total agreement among unit owners and board members -- as
confirmed by requisite tests and engineering studies -- that our corridor
ceilings, walls and common areas are indeed mold toxic.
experts contracted by our board have stated unequivocally that this mold must be
removed by professionally certified mold remediation specialists using
sophisticated EPA-approved procedures and protective equipment.
on December 11, 2005, I noticed debris on our corridor floor. When I looked up
to determine the source, I was dumbstruck by what I saw: a gapping 5 or 6 inch
hole in the corridor ceiling.
condo board previously approved the installation of smoke prevention doors on
each floor. Slicing into our ceilings is apparently part of the work plan.
phoned our board president to demand to know why she let this work proceed prior
to mold remediation. Her reply, "I don't know anything about it. I guess
it's part of what they have to do. I'm busy now and can't do anything about
insisted that she instruct the company to close the holes immediately and to
clean up the debris. She replied, "I'm sure they will get around to
explained that mold spores in our ceiling ducts were surely flying through those
holes as we spoke and asked: "Do you think that mold spores cower in a
little corner of the ceiling, awaiting a special invitation to enter the
said she didn't know.
next action: I phoned the State of Florida Health Department. The person
responsible for indoor air quality in apartment units and homes was on vacation.
know that his statutory authority does not include condominiums -- indeed, no
one at the Department of Health has statutory authority over mold remediation in
condominiums. But at least he would provide a sympathetic ear and perhaps a
telephone number I could call.
was able to reach Mariano Fernandez, director of the Building Division of the
City of Aventura.
Fernandez explained that the category 'environment' was not included in the
Florida building code (FloridaBuilding.org) and that the Building Code does even
not recognize the mold issue!
explained that even where the Florida Building Code does refer to water leaks,
it does not address resulting mold spores.
Fernandez said that he "receives many complaints about toxic mold in
condominium common area" from distraught condominium owners, but has no
authority to respond.
then phoned the Deparment of Environmental Resource Management (DERM) of
Dade-Miami County. I was informed that DERM's statutory authority is limited to
outdoor air quality matters.
government official I spoke with conveyed his personal frustration at the lack
of an effective "address" in such cases.
stated repeatedly that he wished he could refer me to an agency or individual
who could help, but "frankly" admitted that there was simply no one I
could turn to.
here we are: Toxic mold is literally flying in our face from holes in our
condominium corridor ceilings.
president and property manager will not be held legally accountable by the State
of Florida for this health violation -- a hazard that could have been prevented
had the mold been remediated before the smoke prevention work was undertaken.
course, the president and property manager surely failed to warn the smoke
prevention company that its workers were being exposed to toxic mold spores when
taking chunks out of our ceilings.
is the Governor? Where are our legislators? Where is the Environmental
Ombudsman Dr. Virgil Rizzo cannot press condo boards for speedy mold
remediation, because his office plainly lacks the legislative authority to do
lives are at risk, and no one in the Florida Government will lift a finger, much
less a hand, to assist.
has to happen before somebody wakes up?
by Dr. Joyce Starr, 2005. All
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