Saturday, July 27, 2002

Inspectors wait to visit Woodbridge

Complex owners say mold in only a few units

By Michael D. Clark,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — Concerned residents of Woodbridge on the Lake called Butler County health officials Friday, worried that recent discoveries of mold infestation in some apartments might be harmful to their health.

        But it was the phone call health officials didn't get that drew most of their attention.

        “I'm somewhat disappointed and still frustrated with the situation” said Patricia Burg, Butler County Health Department director, referring to the absence of a call from Woodbridge officials.

        The Enquirer reported Friday that county and West Chester Township officials suspect there may be potentially toxic mold in some of Woodbridge's 492apartments in the complex off Cincinnati-Dayton Road.

        In June, after initially cooperating with health officials inspecting a handful of vacant, mold-infested apartments in two of the complex's eight buildings, Woodbridge employees “officially uninvited” the officials from entering the property to conduct more inspections, Ms. Burg said.

        Woodbridge officials did not respond to phone messages left earlier this week. When they learned of The Enquirer's reporting on Thursday, however, they said they were puzzled by Ms. Burg's characterization of events and emphatically added that they want to again work with the county health department.

        But Ms. Burg said that by the end of business hours Friday her department had received no phone call from Woodbridge officials.

        “I would appreciate the opportunity to go back in to the apartments to see if there is anything we can do to help,” she said.

        Woodbridge owner Metro Prop Realty Inc. has not been cited for any building code violations in the 35-year-old complex it purchased in March.

        The realty company's president, Bruce Hellman, declined to comment Friday, but did release a statement with company officials contending that only a few vacant apartments had mold infestation.

        Moreover, the release stated that “we have and will continue to work with experts to address any mold/mildew related issues in a timely manner and will continue to work closely with all government officials.

        “We continue to work with experts to determine whether there is a need to conduct air quality tests in units that have had mold removed. If testing is recommended, we will conduct any and all tests experts determine to be appropriate.”

        County and township inspections were conducted in early June without the knowledge of apartment residents. Those inspections revealed extreme mold infestation fed by sewage backups and widespread water leaks. Officials reported seeing black mold growth — an indicator of potentially dangerous toxicity — and said they suspected possible toxic mold growth and infestations in Woodbridge's other buildings.

        Thousands of harmless molds exist, , but a handful are considered dangerously toxic to both healthy individuals and those whose immune systems might make them more sensitive to less-harmful types of mold.

        Toxic molds can cause serious illnesses, including flu-like symptoms, chronic fatigue, memory impairment, dizziness and bleeding in the nose and lungs.

        Some current and former residents said they have complained of persistent and unusual mold growth on apartment surfaces. Some also claim they have suffered ailments that may be consistent with mold exposure.

        “There's dirty water rolling down my wall and I don't know if it's human sewage,” said Jennifer Risen, a 13-month resident who said she has complained about the problem since December — but to no avail — and believes mold has sickened her.

        Ms. Risen said she was angered by Metro Prop halting county health inspectors' involvement. “I feel like the owners don't want to take care of the problems by keeping health officials away,” she said.

        Kevin Mansdorfer moved out in March “I could hear dripping water behind my walls. I constantly had allergy problems and my kids had upper respiratory infections. The symptoms improved when we moved out,” Mr. Mansdorfer said.


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