FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – Attorneys with a prominent Fort Lauderdale law firm plan to ask a Broward County judge to shut down part or all of the Broward County Courthouse after they say new lab results show “alarming” levels of mold in the air and on surfaces in parts of the building.
“We found abnormal levels of certain molds that are known to present risk to human health,” Robert McKee, of Krupnick Campbell told CBS 4’s Carey Codd.
The attorneys are suing on behalf of more than a dozen courthouse employees. The firm hired a toxicologist — Dr. Richard Lipsey — to perform tests on 8 areas — courtrooms, judge’s chambers and staff areas — on the 7th, 8th and 9th floors of the courthouse. The testing was completed in mid-January.
McKee said the reports are so damaging that he intends to ask a judge to shut down part of the courthouse.
“This building is clear that is been nothing more than band aids in maintenance instead of a system attempt to correct it,” McKee said. “The correct thing to do here is make sure everyone is safe, get them out.”
Specifically, McKee said the reports show “abnormal levels of certain molds that are known to present risk to human health.”
CBS4 cameras found mold on the walls in the courthouse and there have been numerous reports about floods and water leaks in the building over the past several years.
McKee believes the report shows the mold at levels that could lead to cancer.
“Fungi can not only get into your lungs and bother you if you are allergic to them but they also excrete certain chemicals that are airborne,” he explained. “Those are known to present risks to the lungs and the liver, to cells in general such that with enough exposure, enough longevity of that exposure may even present cancer risks.”
Another disturbing part of the report, McKee said, is what was found in some of the air vents.
“Bacteria that is normally found in fecal matter that is literally on the air registers,” he said. “Meaning that that (HVAC) system has become a repository and then a spreader of whatever has been found in the air over time.”
Three Broward judges have requested testing and to be moved to other offices at the courthouse after they requested testing in the wake of the death of Judge Cheryl Aleman in December. Aleman, a non-smoker, died from lung cancer.
Chief Judge Victor Tobin said talk of closing part of the courthouse is premature.
“I don’t think I can just close the courthouse based on one expert’s report,” Tobin told me, adding that experts would have to “test the whole place repetitively.”
Tobin said the county is in the process of hiring its’ own experts to test the courthouse. He did not have a timetable on when that testing would be done.
McKee said a decision needs to be made quickly for the benefit of the hundreds of people who work there.
Funds for a new courthouse have been approved, but construction won’t be completed for at least another three years.