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Mold woes grow in Akron
City orders apartment at Waterford condemned
By Bob Downing and Karalee Miller

The Akron Health Department on Wednesday condemned an apartment off Portage Trail Extension because of severe mold problems.

The mold concentration was so heavy that city inspector John Goold became physically ill while in the unit at Waterford at Portage Trail Apartments, a department spokesman said.

The city's condemnation order means that the apartment cannot be occupied until the problems have been corrected, said spokesman Duane Groeger of the Akron Health Department's housing office.

The empty ground-floor apartment in Building No. 12 at 1804 Waterford Court had heavy mold covering the carpeting and growing up the walls, Groeger said.

``The wall is completely black'' said Rae-Lyn Curry, 23, who lives cater-cornered from the condemned apartment.

``There are spores growing up out of the carpet. It looks like a whole other carpet.''

The mold was growing in all the rooms in the unit: two bedrooms, living room, kitchen and bathroom, Groeger said.

It is unknown what type of mold is in the apartment.

There is a potentially dangerous blackish-green mold known as stachybotrys or black mold, which has been linked to potentially fatal pulmonary hemosiderosis, or bleeding in the lungs. Children, especially those exposed to tobacco smoke, are most at risk from the mold. Symptoms of pulmonary hemosiderosis include nosebleeds and coughing up blood.

Stachybotrys grows only on wood or paper.

That mold is the focus of a growing number of lawsuits, pitting homeowners against builders, developers and previous owners.

But it is impossible to visually determine what kind of mold is occupying the Waterford apartment, and the city does not test for stachybotrys, Groeger said.

Goold, who became ill at the unit, was better once he got fresh air and did not require medical treatment, Groeger said.

The Health Department has not yet determined if an additional cleanup of other apartments in that building might be ordered, he said.

City health workers intend to inspect two apartments flanking the contaminated apartment today, Groeger said.

He said Goold did inspect one occupied apartment across from the mold-infested apartment. A small bit of mold was found on a windowsill but there is no evidence to tie that mold to the mass mold in the empty apartment, he said.

Groeger said the management company, M. Myers Development Inc. of Dallas, has promised to remedy the problem in the condemned apartment.

The company has corrected past mold problems in the complex, Groeger said.

City officials were told by the company that the mold problem may have been triggered by a broken waterline in the apartment, Groeger said.

The company told city officials that it intended to hire a professional hygienist to supervise the cleanup.

Efforts to reach company officials in Texas were unsuccessful late Wednesday.

The city inspection came after a tenant filed a written complaint late Tuesday, Groeger said.

Groeger said his office is interested in hearing from tenants. Anyone with knowledge of mold problems in the complex is asked to call 330-375-2366.

The Waterford is a privately owned and operated apartment complex that was funded with Ohio tax credits. Some tenants get federal vouchers from Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority to pay a portion of their rent.

AMHA spent more than $2 million to clean up mold at 39 apartment buildings at Joy Park in East Akron.

That cleanup got under way in 2000 and was completed in the last few weeks, said Anthony O'Leary, agency executive director.

Curry, who has lived at the 304-unit Waterford complex since July, said there was mold in her apartment when she moved in.

``(Management) said it was just mildew and to spray it with bleach water,'' she said.

Curry said about two months ago, her hot water tank overflowed and soaked her 2-year-old daughter's bedroom.

``It was like walking on a sponge,'' she said.

Mold and bugs soon followed -- a problem that persists today.

``All they (maintenance) did was pull the carpet up and brought in a blower,'' said Curry, as she pulled back the carpet in her daughter's closet to reveal the mold and bugs that live underneath.

Mold that's black and pink also periodically appears along her walls and windowsills, Curry said.

Curry said the condemned apartment has been vacant for about eight months.

In fact, she said, many of the apartments are vacant, leaving her to wonder if others faced similar conditions.

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