AP NEWS

Arkansas election office may move due to high mold levels

November 11, 2019

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) — Mold contamination at an election commission office in Arkansas is so extreme that staff health and electronic voting machines are at risk, and officials are looking for an alternative working space.

Aerus air quality technicians who inspected the Jefferson County Election Commission office last month found evidence of water damage and mold buildup, and an oppressive musty odor permeated the air.

“They found mold in the carpet,” Commissioner Stuart Soffer said. “In the heating and air room, the readings were unbelievable and there was a pickle bucket in there with water and mold that has been growing because apparently one of the units back there was leaking, and the two air filters were black with mold.”

Soffer noted that mold was growing inside the cabinets in the media room, where commissioners work to prepare elections and to tabulate election results. He added that the moisture contamination was coming from a building next door that was leaking into the election commission office.

“The bottom line is that we cannot continue using this building,” he said. “We have a liability and if you knowingly expose people to this stuff, you’re setting yourself up.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mold can prompt a variety of health problems including eye, nose and throat irritation, but can also lead to lung disease and upper respiratory tract illness for those with asthma or a compromised immune system.

Aerus’ measurements showed that one election room contained 73,300 particles per cubic foot small mold spores, which technicians said far exceeded acceptable levels of 2,500 particles per cubic foot. They also found large mold spores measuring 16,800 particles per cubic foot, while the acceptable level is 200 particles per cubic foot.

The Arkansas Gazette-Democrat reported that the damp and mold could lead to corrosion of electronic voting machines.

The technicians said mold spore levels far exceeded acceptable levels. Aerus, which sells air and water purifiers, recommended a $1,500 dehumidifier.

Soffer suggested that the election commission could move into the former sheriff’s office facility in the county courthouse. But County Judge Gerald Robinson, the chief executive of county government, said that room wasn’t available to the election commission. Robinson said he would look for another county-owned building to use.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com