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House mold causes problems
Reporter: Chris Williams

Claremont, IL May 3 -- Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary from the world.

But one Tri-State family is fighting a losing battle against mold inside its house.

"For health reasons is the big thing why we're out," Pat Harmon said, and the fact the floors are falling down. We can't do it. We can't live here for safety reasons and health reasons.

Harmon and her sister, Letha Jackson, moved out as mold moved in.

Their home video shows black mold on fans, ceilings, even doors.

They hired a mold expert who verified their fears some of the mold growing in their home is toxic.

Harmon claims she fought the problem for years.

"When mold would come," she said, "I'd wash it with bleach water and get it cleaned off. Then I'd paint, and it would come back through the paint."

Harmon thinks she knows what's to blame: a water tower owned by the city that's close to her house.

How close? It's about 20 feet from her back door.

"It would overflow from the top and pour down on the house," Harmon said. "When this water tower ran over, it would run over so hard it sounded like hail on the house. We'd step outside to see if it was raining or something, and it was all coming from the water tower."

Harmon and Jackson complained to the village board several times, but it took years for the village to act. Eventually, Claremont workers connected an overflow pipe down the side of the tower, but by that point, the damage had already been done.

"We tried to open (the door) and just starting tearing apart at the base," Harmon said.

Their house is falling apart now. Floors have dropped, door frames have shifted, and green mold is even growing on the vinyl siding.

Harmon, Jackson and their daughters now stay in an apartment.

"Anybody who has a serious problem with their home...this is a person's life that's involved here," village attorney John Clark said. "We're of course sympathetic to her."

Clark claims that while the village feels for Harmon's family, the problem was not caused by the water tower.

"There's nothing I could've done," Harmon answered, "except I should have gone and got an attorney before all this happened."

But she didn't. Now her lawyer and Clark claim it's too late anyhow.

Illinois law gives citizens one year to sue a municipality. After that, the statute of limitations is up.

Because Harmon publicly argued for years before the mold problem, there's nothing her lawyer can do now.

They have homeowners insurance, but most policies won't cover water damage unless it's caused by an Act of God .

"The only fault we had actually," Harmon said, "was we did not raise enough Kane and go to higher ups and pursue legal actions then."

"We don't believe the city is at fault," Clark said. "We investigated it. There was a leak that took place in the late 1990s. We discovered the leak and we repaired the leak, and there have been no problems since."

Harmon and Jackson aren't sure what they'll do next. They've talked with the Illinois Insurance Commission, but it's unclear whether they can help.

The city's insurance company offered a few thousand dollars for repairs, but Harmon and Jackson turned it down, because they didn't think it was enough to fix the entire problem.

So for now, they're left with a house they can't live in and a hard-learned lesson.

"If something goes wrong and it's somebody else's fault," Jackson said, "instead of being the nice guy, I'm gonna have to turn it over to somebody who can help me with the problem."

Harmon and her family tried to deal with moisture problems on their own. Experts believe that may have been part of the problem.

Here are some tips to help protect your family:

*Hire a professional to inspect moisture problems before they become large.

*The earlier you fix them, the easier it is to prevent the spread of mold.

*If you find black mold, hire an environmental specialist to test air quality in your home. The test runs about $200.

*Not all mold is toxic, but toxic mold can cause serious health problems.

*If you find a moisture problem in your home and don't think it's your fault, contact an attorney.

Harmon's attorney thinks they may have had a case against the Village of Claremont had they taken their cast to court before the statute of limitations ran out.

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