Advertisement
  1. Military

Mold outbreak at VA Bay Pines center called 'chronic, recurrent problem'

Bay Pines VA Healthcare System employee Rae Chapman, who says her health issues have been worsened by mold in Building T-203, took this picture of a ceiling tile containing mold in April 2018. [Courtesy of Rae Chapman]
Bay Pines VA Healthcare System employee Rae Chapman, who says her health issues have been worsened by mold in Building T-203, took this picture of a ceiling tile containing mold in April 2018. [Courtesy of Rae Chapman]
Published Dec. 10, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — An outbreak of mold at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center shows the Veterans Administration isn't doing enough to deal a "chronic, recurrent problem," says an allergist who has treated people who complained about health problems from the mold.

"The main problem is that the 'remediations' have not successfully corrected the high humidity environment," Stephen J. Klemawesch, founder of Allergy Associates, said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. "Until this is done, mold will continue to grow."

What's more, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist said "the situation falls far short" of the world-class care military veterans deserve.

"The idea that staff and patients were working and receiving treatment in space containing mold is deeply troubling," Crist, the St. Petersburg Democrat, said in a statement to the Times.

Employees in the social work unit have long complained about mold in Building T-203 at the sprawling Bay Pines campus. The building was evacuated last month and 60 employees were moved after an air quality test OF THE building found elevated levels of mold known to cause health problems in those with comprised immune systems.

But the problems go beyond Building T-203, a manufactured structure prone to water intrusion. Eleven other rooms were affected by mold, in some cases forcing patients and personnel to be moved, Bay Pines officials said.

Bay Pines spokeswoman Melanie Thomas declined to say how many were moved from the additional rooms nor would she comment on Klemawesch's contention that the center isn't doing enough to deal with humidity levels.

The two most likely culprits are leaks and poor heating and cooling system engineering, "with a mismatch of compressors/air handlers," Klemawesch said, responding to questions from the Times.

Thomas said the 12 rooms with mold represent only a tiny portion of the 5,245 rooms on the medical campus. Remediation is planned for two areas — a designated office space in building 100 and a patient room in building 71-101. Both have been closed.

"In both cases, the space's occupants have been moved and relocated to new spaces for the time being," Thomas said.

In addition, the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System conducted a mold assessment Oct. 22 in the Building 23 Dental Clinic.

"Although the results of the report determined that there were no elevated levels of mold, there was water staining on ceiling tiles and visible mold growth in one of the rooms," Thomas said. "Remediation has been completed in some areas and continues in others."

She called the process standard of practice for the VA, involving a team of experts and a third party Certified Industrial Hygienist.

"We are also pending an award of a remediation contract for mold to provide more support to our efforts, she said.

U.S. Rep. Crist said he, too, is closely monitoring the center's progress.

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Sam Flores admires a new statue of his late brother, William Flores, Monday at the U.S. Coast Guard Sector, St. Petersburg. The statue honors William Flores, who helped save fellow crew members on the US Coast Guard vessel Blackthorn when it sank on January 28, 1980. Twenty three crew members died. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    A freak set of circumstances led to catastrophe the evening of Jan. 28, 1980.
  2. Jessica Purcell of St. Petersburg, a captain in the Army Reserve, was pregnant with son Jameson when she was told at a MacDill Air Force Base clinic not to worry about lumps under her arm. She now is diagnosed stage 4 cancer. Jameson is 10 months old. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    A 1950 Supreme Court ruling prohibited lawsuits against the government by military members. A new measure provides a compromise.
  3. This undated file photo provided by the FBI shows Mohammed Alshamrani. The United States is preparing to remove more than a dozen Saudi military students from a training program and return them to their home country after an investigation into a deadly shooting by Saudi aviation student Alshamrani at a Florida navy base in December 2019, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. [AP]
    Many of the 21 cadets had contact with child pornography and possessed jihadist or anti-American material, William Barr said.
  4. MacDill Air Force Base now requires all visitors looking to enter the base to show either Department of Defense ID or valid photo ID with a base pass. [Air Force photo] [HANDOUT  |  Air Force]
    U.S. installations have increased security as tensions with Iran run high, and that includes the bases and veterans’ facilities in the Tampa Bay area.
  5. MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa was briefly on lockdown Friday morning after reports of an armed person near the Tanker Way Gage. The lockdown has been lifted and all gates except the Tanker Way Gate have been lifted. [Times (2018)]
    McDill Air Force Base is investigating a report of an armed person, but a lockdown at the base has been lifted
  6. Rescue workers carry the body of a victim of an Ukrainian plane crash among debris of the plane in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. A Ukrainian airplane carrying 176 people crashed on Wednesday shortly after takeoff from Tehran's main airport, killing all onboard. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) [EBRAHIM NOROOZI  |  AP]
    The cause of the crash is currently under investigation
  7. Coffins of Gen. Qassem Soleimani and others who were killed in Iraq by a U.S. drone strike, are carried on a truck surrounded by mourners during a funeral procession, in the city of Kerman, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. A stampede erupted on Tuesday at a funeral procession for a top Iranian general killed in a U.S. airstrike last week, killing 35 people and injuring 48 others, state television reported. (AP Photo) [AP]
    The stampede took place in Kerman, the hometown of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, as the procession got underway.
  8. Traci Lenz said this is what her kitchen vent looked like even after mold remediation at her MacDill Air Force Base home. [Courtesy of Traci Lenz]
    Over the last year, families reported mold and other problems in military housing at MacDill and other bases.
  9. A woman mourns in a demonstration over the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Tehran, Iran, Friday. Iran has vowed "harsh retaliation" for the U.S. airstrike near Baghdad's airport that killed Tehran's top general and the architect of its interventions across the Middle East, as tensions soared in the wake of the targeted killing. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) [VAHID SALEMI  |  AP]
    Iran vowed “harsh retaliation” for a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad’s airport that killed a top Iranian general.
  10. Soldiers board a C-17 aircraft Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020 at Fort Bragg, N.C., to be deployed in Iraq. (Melissa Sue Gerrits/The Fayetteville Observer via AP) [MELISSA SUE GERRITS  |  AP]
    The President ordered about 750 U.S. soldiers deployed to the Middle East as about 3,000 more prepare for possible deployment in the next several days.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement