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Mold Delays Habitat For Humanity's Plans To Build House

The mold-infested house located at 425 NE 37th Ave.
The mold-infested house located at 425 NE 37th Ave.

The demolition of a mold-infested house in her neighborhood has Susan Fairforest concerned.

Habitat for Humanity was preparing to tear down a house at 425 NW 37th Ave. to make way for a new home designated for a family in need before discovering a mold infestation.

Fairforest, who has lived on the street for 18 years, heard about the mold problem on Sept. 2, when her husband, Ron Hodill, talked to a Habitat for Humanity employee inspecting the property.

“He was told that the house was covered with mold, and it was the worst he had ever seen,” Fairforest said.

Her concerns about the dangers of mold and toxic chemicals on the couple's health are what prompted her to take action. Fairforest immediately went to the city commission and requested that the house not be demolished.

The mold problem can be traced back to the Cabot-Koppers Superfund, a wood treatment plant where chemicals were illegally deposited into the ground and soil, said Anthony Dennis, environmental health director at the Alachua County Health Department.

“The U.S. EPA developed a treatment plan, but the property was not included in this,” he said.

Chase Bank, the property owner, donated the house to Habitat for Humanity in May. Fairforest said nobody has lived in the home for the past four years.

Scott Winzeler, executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Alachua County, said the organization was happy residents came forward to express their concerns. He said an environmental engineer came and inspected the house to make sure everything was safe.

The mold-infested house is set to be demolished as soon as possible, but it could be several weeks until construction begins on the new home, Winzeler said.

In order to prevent the mold from spreading, Winzeler said materials will be kept damp during the dismantling process.

Fairforest said she supports Habitat for Humanity, but feels the organization is not taking the neighborhood into consideration.

“If they were to demolish it, we would be very concerned about the mold being all over the place,” Fairforest said, citing risks to the family's health.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article had an incorrect last name for Susan Fairforest. The article was also updated to correct the address of the house, identify Fairforest's husband by name and reflect the couple's concern about the mold's effect on their health.

 

Kaley is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.