County Can’t Get Story Straight on Toxic Mold in Public Housing Units

Another Family Caught in the Web of Corruption & Ignorance

This is the torture that innocent families are going through. While
being ill, this family as well as many others across this country are
combating corruption, ignorance, which in the end this families health
and possibly entire future will be plagued with hardship due to this.
Since when can a doctor determine what levels are toxic. Most doctors
either are not educated or deny that mold makes people ill. I hope
this family gets out of there NOW!

The molds listed in this story are toxic and besides causing
respiratory problems, they can damage the liver, kidneys, central
nervous system, and every other system in the body. This is why we
must all work together to end this corruption and ignorance.

Toxic Indoor Mold Central

County Can’t Get Story Straight on Toxic Mold in Public Housing Units

By Bryant Furlow
SUN Staff Writer
June 4, 2009  
Rio Arriba County officials claim their low-income public housing
units do not have toxic mold despite County-commissioned lab tests
identifying at least four mold species listed by the federal
government as species of particular concern in four units.

“Toxic mold was not evident,” County Public Housing Director Angie
Pacheco told County Commission Chairman Elias Coriz at a May 28 Public
Housing Board meeting. “There were no signs of mold at all in (James)
McConnell’s unit. The inspector found black mildew on windows in the
other two units (inspected).”

James McConnell and Suzanne Tattan live in unit 110 of the Ojo
Caliente low-income housing development. They fell ill with swollen
eyes, flu-like symptoms and respiratory problems two days after moving
in, according to a lawsuit the couple filed May 27 in federal District

The Authority is seeking to evict McConnell and Tattan because of
McConnell’s allegedly aggressive and harassing behavior when
confronting Housing employees about his health concerns regarding the

“A certified person found no mold,” Coriz told McConnell at the
Housing Board meeting. “We tried to make sure that mold is indeed not
happening. I don’t want people living in mold so I gave a very serious
directive (to Pacheco).”

Coriz backtracked somewhat when McConnell produced photographs of
dense growths of mold from behind his unit’s bedroom wallboard.

“We’ll definitely have to revisit the testing,” Coriz said. “But
currently, we have the problem that I don’t have any documentation
that there is mold. We took direction from Ms. Pacheco and the report
came back negative. There’s no mold until it’s proven otherwise.”

But the County’s own lab results show that the tests for mold were
not “negative.”

The Authority paid Rio Rancho-based Rhoades Environmental $1,900
to test for mold (fungus) in three Ojo Caliente housing units — units
103, 110 and 112 — and in Tierra Amarilla housing unit 119, County
documents show.

Lab reports dated May 17 showed that all four units had species of
mold — Penicillium, Aspergillus and Cladosporium — listed by the
Agency as “species of particular concern.”

Exposure to these species can cause nasal congestion, runny nose,
sneezing, conjunctivitis, lacrimation, wheezing, chest tightness, and
shortness of breath, according to the Agency’s web site.

“Among patients studied, children are the most sensitive to mold
allergens,” the Agency web site states.

There are currently no federal regulations governing mold
exposures and different people have different sensitivities to toxic
molds, according to the lab report. The lab reports state that
different individuals have different sensitivities to molds and that
the only existing state standards for exposure levels, in New York and
California, are being challenged in court on that basis.

The airborne mold levels in all four units are below a New York
state mold exposure limits, according to the lab reports. The report
does not state whether the mold in the units meets the California

Lab reports for other County public housing units reported higher
airborne and surface spore counts than those found in unit 110, where
McConnell and Tattan live.

“The spore counts that came back are very, very low,” Pacheco

But that’s misleading, McConnell suggested.

It’s not surprising that levels in unit 110 were low because
McConnell and Tattan went to extraordinary lengths to clean unit 110
of mold after they fell ill, McConnell said.

“We cleaned the entire house, stopped using the heater, taped over
the air vents,” McConnell said.

The Authority also provided McConnell and Tattan with an air
dehumidifier and space heaters in March, Pacheco confirmed.

The presence of airborne mold in unit 110 despite McConnell and
Tattan’s cleaning efforts and the presence of an air dehumidifier were
not reasons to suspect a toxic mold infestation, Pacheco said.

Pacheco did not ask Rhoades whether cleaning and the presence of
an air dehumidifier could cause an underestimation of the amount of
mold growing in the house, she said.

“We found species but the species were nontoxic,” Pacheco
initially said Monday. “We didn’t feel like we needed to ask (Rhoades)

After reviewing the lab reports on Monday, she said that even if
they were potentially toxic species, they’re not toxic at the reported

“They’re molds but they’re not toxic at these levels,” Pacheco
said. “If Rhoades had said there was mold in there, we’d have removed
everyone and tested the entire complex.”

But Pacheco subsequently said only a doctor can determine whether
a given level of potentially toxic mold exposure is dangerous to a
particular person.

“I do believe these are nontoxic levels of mold,” Pacheco said.
“My understanding from Rhoades is it’s not a hazard to health.”

Ron Rhoades, who wrote the lab reports, could not be reached for
comment Tuesday.

The mold growths window sills in Ojo Caliente units 103 and 112,
dismissed as “mildew” by Pacheco, turned out to be dense growths of
toxic mold species, the lab report shows. The window sill growths in
unit 112 showed Aspergillus and Penicillium, as well as Alternaria,
another mold species of particular concern, according to the Agency
web site.

County housing unit 119 in Tierra Amarilla had Aspergillus and
Penicillium in the dining room, the lab reports show.

Pacheco found two other Ojo Caliente units with “mildew” when she
inspected all of the County’s public housing units in 2006, she said.
She did not remember which units those were.

When black stains have been encountered in units by Authority
staff, they’ve assumed it to be harmless mildew, Pacheco said.

“We’re just basing it on what we assume,” Pacheco said. “We assume
it’s mildew.”

Coriz said he had depended on Pacheco’s description of lab results
rather than the lab reports themselves.

The County plans to have all the units retested for mold but the
details have not been worked out, County Manager Lorenzo Valdez said.
The question is not whether the species found are potentially toxic
but whether the levels in the units are low enough to be safe, Coriz
said. He also expressed concern that by opening drywall to expose mold
behind the walls, McConnell may have placed himself and Tattan at

“By McConnell opening up the wall, it’s a whole different animal
now,” Coriz said. “When it was in the wall, it wasn’t exposed. Rhoades
did the test when the walls were closed up. He’ll have to go back and
do a new test. I hear they’re still in the apartment so I don’t know
to what extent they’ve exposed themselves to the mold now. It might be
toxic now. We want them out for their own safety.”

The couple had not been evicted as of Tuesday.

About Sharon Kramer

Hi, I'm an advocate for integrity in health marketing and in the courts.
This entry was posted in Environmental Health Threats, Mold and Politics, Mold Litigation, Toxic Mold and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to County Can’t Get Story Straight on Toxic Mold in Public Housing Units

  1. Debbie Weaver says:

    My 77 yr old mother lives in a 30-40 year old Senior citizen appartment complex with original carpet laid on concrete floor. Her place smells very musty and stale. Is there someone that could check for mold. Since she has been there she has developed alot of lung and breathing problems.

  2. Stacey Monson says:

    Ive been thru the same ordeal with the Davis County Housing Authority. They have been denying and then painting for 20 years. I have pictures that are horrifying. I bought my own bathroom sink because the one it had was almost completely. I was told thats just how they were and no one was going to fix it. I asked permission to put new sink in and wen i took the old one out i cant tell u how bad. I have pics. I wish i could have saved it taken it to one of their houses dropped it in their bathroom. How long do you think they’d let it sit in there. i called jealth dept. Its was officially mold but as of today they wont shut this place down. What is wrong with these people. How many kids will suffer due to greed? I could cry because this is a public housing complex. Babies will always live in this toxic dump unless i can find help in stopping them.
    Please someone if you can help me find the way to expose them and make them accountable help.

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