UNION GAP, Wash.-- City leaders in Union Gap believe they've pin-pointed the cause behind the sudden illnesses of several employees last year at city hall. Toxic, black mold.
You may remember back in 2008, the Benton County Assessor's office had to be shut down due to high levels of mold.
Now, Union Gap City Hall is dealing with a similar problem after tests by an environmental consulting firm showed dangerously high levels of mold.
"A small sample of the drywall came back and had about 15,000 mold spores on stacci botrus, which is a toxic mold," said Union Gap Fire Chief Chris Jensen, who is working closely with the environmental consulting firm.
It's a frightening finding at Union Gap City Hall, something that could have affected not only city employees but folks just stopping by for court or to pay their utility bill.
"With that type of a mold, when it gets suspended in air, it becomes an issue for people breathing it, things like that," said Chief Jensen.
And it's something that Union Gap's Mayor, Jim Lemon, says could be to blame for his heart condition.
"I almost died from something attacking my heart. I have experienced it myself, what I believe made me sick," said Lemon.
The complaints started about a year ago with employees smelling something they couldn't explain.
After some air quality testing, the mold was found.
The majority of it was found in the mayor's office and conference room, as well as near the city clerk's office, an area that sees a lot of foot traffic from city administrators.
"I've heard from employees that other employees have been sick and that they believe the building made them sick," said Lemon.
Chief Jensen and Mayor Lemon are working closely with the environmental consulting firm, who will make a suggestion on how to move forward.
The mold will have to be cleaned up and it's likely city hall will be shut down to protect citizens and employees, while that work is done.