Somers to propose legislation for mold standards, testing protocols

January 9, 2023

Somers to propose legislation for mold standards, testing protocols

January 08, 2023

By Kimberly Drelich

After following the situation at Branford Manor in Groton and similar concerns over mold in other subsidized housing, State Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, plans to introduce a bill that would require the state Department of Public Health to develop standards and testing protocols for mold.

Somers said at issue is that there is no state or federal standard for what is considered an acceptable or unacceptable level for mold.

“The dangerous and unhealthy living conditions that Branford Manor residents have been enduring points to a need for action,” Somers said in a statement.

Residents at the about 440-unit federally subsidized housing complex, located in the City of Groton, have raised concerns about mold.

“This is a pressing health issue which points to a need for widespread reform,” she added. “And we will be united in reaching that goal.”

Somers, the ranking senator on the Public Health Committee, plans to introduce in the near future the proposed legislation to require the state agency to “establish indoor mold standards,“ create a public service announcement on how to prevent and clean for mold, and ”provide the appropriate test protocols and procedures when testing for mold,“ according to a news release.

Describing it as an incremental process, Somers said Friday that the first step would be for the Department of Public Health to research and develop standards for what is considered acceptable and what is considered unacceptable levels for mold and the appropriate testing protocols.

She explained that it could take some time ― probably a year ― to research and develop the standards. She added that mold is a tricky issue because some molds may affect one person, but not another.

“Setting a standard is not going to be an easy task but it has to be done,“ she said.

Once the standards and protocols are adopted, legislators, as a next step, can then look at how to apply the newly adopted standards to housing complexes that are subsidized by the state or federal government.

She said it’s typical to start with state or federally subsidized properties, but perhaps the standards would be required in the building code at some point in the future.

She also said it’s important for the Department of Public health to come out with information on how to prevent mold and how to clean for mold.

The state Department of Public Health on a fact sheet posted on its website states that: “There are no health-based standards for indoor levels of molds because there is great variability in both people’s reaction to mold and in molds themselves.”

“Having indoor mold standards including testing protocols, acceptable levels and criteria for remediation is essential in the ability to identify and remediate mold in living spaces,” City of Groton Mayor Keith Hedrick said in a statement. “Without these standards, protocols or criteria, local government enforcement of acceptable living conditions is handicapped. I support this legislation as a start to mold identification and remediation regulation.”

Ledge Light Health District Director Steve Mansfield said he did not have a comment on the proposed legislation because he has not yet read a copy of it, but he said the lack of standards associated with mold does present difficulties for enforcement.

Mansfield said that if regulations and standards for mold are established, they should be based on science.

On the federal level, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, plans to introduce legislation that would provide more ways for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to enforce mold issues in public housing.

The town and city councils voted this fall to hold Related Companies, owner of Branford Manor, in default of a tax incentive agreement.

Sixteen Branford Manor residents brought a class action lawsuit last month against the owner of Branford Manor.

Branford’s management wrote in letters to residents that it is continuing to implement a plan to address mold and moisture issues, including remediating apartments, installing bathroom fans and replacing plumbing.