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Firefighters miffed about firehouse mold; officials say they're on the case

Posted by Megan McKee  July 27, 2010 06:13 PM

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Though firefighters may be dismayed at the lengthy history of mold in their Framingham headquarters, Fire Chief Gary Daugherty said the source of the problem wasn’t discovered until just recently.

“The position is: yes, there’s a problem but we hope we’re on the right track and we think we have the right cadre of people together,” said Daugherty. He said the problem lies in the HVAC system, which isn’t properly removing moisture from the outside air that’s being sucked into the building.

The head of the local firefighters’ union, Peter DeVito, said he understands why people are frustrated—firefighters spend two 24-hour shifts within an eight day cycle, and the word “mold” conjures scary thoughts of health risks and bad air quality.

“It’s like a home away from home. It’s just been a constant pain in the ass,” said DeVito. But he praised Daugherty’s handling of the situation. “We have a new chief going out of his way to do what he can,” said DeVito.

Both DeVito and Daugherty said air quality tests done by both the state and a consultant have shown the air is safe to breathe.

DeVito said that the carpets were being ripped up today and the ceiling tiles will soon be replaced. And Daugherty said the HVAC system will be completely overhauled and the air ducts will be cleaned.

Daugherty said the HVAC system was designed to circulate air for a much larger number of occupants than are ever in the building, which means the air is cooled down quicker than the system has time to demoisturize it. The additional moisture has been a breeding ground for mold, he said.

Daugherty said on July 15, he convened a meeting of Fire Department personnel, consultants, engineers, and town and state officials to coordinate a mold remediation approach.

Town Manager Julian Suso said he expects the HVAC overhaul to be done within the next 30 days.

“There’s some complexity to the problem,” said Suso. “This is also an HVAC system has some computerized elements to it. We have a mechanical engineer who has expertise in this area so we can make sure that dollars are spent and investments are made wisely.”

Megan McKee can be reached at megan.mckee@gmail.com.

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