“Earlier this year, Beck filed a whistleblower complaint with the state, telling the Department of Business and Professional Regulation all about the cubology, the bleach method. She even told the agency she was instructed to purchase plug-in air fresheners to mask the signs of mold.”
“The Contact 5 Investigators received a letter from Beck’s former boss, an area manager for Emperian Properties for 13 years. Diana Ramos confirmed some of Beck’s claims saying: “Kim had a chronic cough” and “I was concerned for her health.”
“The letter also said: “During my tenure, I was aware of many complaints of mold from residents, and I made the determination to release them from their lease because they were physically ill due to mold,” Ramos wrote.”
Reported by: Shannon Cake
Photographer: Jim Sitton
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – It grows organically, everywhere in our environment. We’re talking about mold.
But there are times it can grow out of control and cause serious health problems, especially when it’s infesting your home.
The Contact 5 Investigators received a series of mold complaints from residents living in a string of apartment buildings. Jeanette Gadbury lives in the Lexford Apartment complex in Hobe Sound.
“I didn’t realize it was that bad behind there,” Gadbury said.
When she and her fiancé, Danny Hutson, peeled back their wallpaper they found mold living, growing, and spreading all over their unit.
“No wonder I’ve been sick so much, I throw up everyday,” said Gadbury.
“I get headaches, nausea, diarrhea. Come to find out I was on the verge of pneumonia,” said Danny Hutson.
The Contact 5 Investigators found Hutson and Gadbury aren’t the only residents suffering.
Amanda Porrus and her family lived in Astorwood Apartments in Stuart for several months. She says the whole family started struggling with pulmonary problems, but for a long time, they couldn’t pinpoint a problem.
“It was terrifying,” Porrus said wiping away her tears. “Still, to this day, it’s terrifying. I mean my son is still sick. It was five months of hell, going doctor to doctor trying to figure out what was wrong with my children.”
Porrus said her 3-year-old son’s medical condition was a mystery. His medical records reveal months of chronic coughing, fevers, bronchitis and pneumonia. Her daughter’s charts show visit after visit, constant green nasal discharge and chronic Sinusitis.
“We couldn’t figure out what was causing their sickness,” Porrus said. “The stress of not knowing what it was, you know, in the middle of the night, coughing fits and fevers hitting 104, the whole juggling act, should you take them to the hospital or not. It was awful.”
For months, her children were on breathing treatments and multiple medicines, but according to Amanda, they didn’t help and all of the doctors’ X-rays and testing came back negative.
“We poked and prodded my son in everyway we could and finally I said, ‘there’s mold on my ceiling,’ ” Porrus recalls. “The doctor looked at me and was like, ‘well that’s it!’ I said ‘that’s what’s making my kids sick?’ And the doctor said, ‘if there is visible mold, then you have mold in your house and your kids have the symptoms of mold.’ “
Amanda says she drove straight home to her apartment.
“I took the corner of the wallpaper down there and it was just running down the wall, just black spots running down the wall,” said Porrus.
Property managers agreed to move Amanda to another apartment, but she says she took a do-it-yourself mold sample before unpacking in the new place. When mold started growing in the Petri dish, Amanda says she refused to move in. Instead, she told managers they had a mold problem in their complex and because of that, she was moving out. Amanda was billed 60 days rent to break her lease.
“The problem at Astorwood for sure was that the mold is not just on the wallpaper, it’s the back of the wallpaper, it’s in the drywall and wallboard,in all the wood studs, it’s in the floor joints and there were many floors caving in,” said Kimberly Beck. For more than two years she was the manager at both Astorwood in Stuart and the Laxford complex in Hobe Sound, where the Contact Five Investigators found the first couple.
“In my opinion, these properties are mold habitats,” said Beck.
Both Astorwood and Lexford are owned by Emperian Property Management Inc.
“They instruct their managers and maintenance alike to do the mandatory course called cubology, and in cubolgy, they tell us that mold is a natural component,” Beck told the Contact 5 Investigators. “They claim the mold is harmless if left intact, so what you do when you see it is simply take the bleach bottles they give you and they tell us to spray and wipe away.”
“You believed bleach would take care of it,” I asked.
“That’s what we learned in cubology,” said Beck.
In fact, Beck claims she and her maintenance team were coached by a corporate manager on how to handle resident’s mold concerns.
“You know you never say mold, and he has continuously said that to me and my staff,” Beck said. “You never say mold, if anyone asks, you only say that it must be something like black water intrusion. I just thought it was not to alarm the people.”
Beck claims she too suffered health problems and when she asked to be re-assigned to a mold free property, the company fired her.
The Contact 5 Investigators received a letter from Beck’s former boss, an area manager for Emperian Properties for 13 years. Diana Ramos confirmed some of Beck’s claims saying: “Kim had a chronic cough” and “I was concerned for her health.”
The letter also said: “During my tenure, I was aware of many complaints of mold from residents, and I made the determination to release them from their lease because they were physically ill due to mold,” Ramos wrote.
Earlier this year, Beck filed a whistleblower complaint with the state, telling the Department of Business and Professional Regulation all about the cubology, the bleach method. She even told the agency she was instructed to purchase plug-in air fresheners to mask the signs of mold.
DBPR officials told us their agency has received no other complaints about either property in the last two years.
So the Contact Five Investigators took a look at Florida’s inspection reports during that two-year time frame. Both properties passed state inspection with only minor infractions. There was no mention of a mold problem anywhere in the reports.
The Contact 5 Investigators offered to meet with managers at Emperian Property Management, but our request for a sit-down interview was denied.
In a statement, company executive Sam Moerman said that Emperian addresses mold issues in lease agreements. He also said, “Aside from the property staff on premises, Empirian has put into place fail-safes to ensure that mold is handled appropriately and not ignored. In addition to property management, we have made available district managers, regional managers and a customer service line that can take reports of mold and ensure that it is solved for the resident.” Bottom-line said Moerman, “It starts with reporting by the resident. If we don’t know about it, we can’t fix it.”
But Jeanette Gadbury and Danny Hutson said they reported a mold problem in their apartment at Lexford almost a year ago.
So the Contact 5 Investigators hooked up with Richard Cardo. He runs Dynamic Inspection Services in South Florida. He was invited to take samples inside the couple’s Lexford apartment.
“Something like what’s behind this wallpaper is way out of hand,” said Cardo. “This is not something I would want my kids to be around. This is something that needs to be taken care of right away.”
Cardo sampled the air Gadbury and her fiancé have been breathing. The apartment failed, according to his analysis. The lab tests, Cardo said, prove it.
“If I was writing a remediation protocol on this, my request would be that they move out into another place until this is corrected and testing and proven that it’s clean and then they move back in.”
“This is unacceptable,” I asked.
“What I see is unacceptable, yes,” Cardo replied.
“No one should be living here,” I asked.
“Not as far as I’m concerned, no,” he said.
The lab tests confirmed aspergillums penicillium at unusually high levels recorded by Cardo’s equipment. Posted on this page is the summary report from the testing conducted by Dynamic Inspection Services.
Remediation experts, like Cardo, say bleach in certain circumstances can be affective when you’re dealing with small amounts of mold, but when you’re dealing with more than about 3 inches, you really should get an expert to look at it.
Information on Riverstone Residential, the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, and the owners of Toxic Mold Infested Jefferson Lakes Apartments in Baton Rouge, Louisiana continuing to allow tenants to be exposed to extreme amounts of mold toxins
Irrefutable evidence indicates that Riverstone Residential, Guarantee Service Team of Professionals, & plaintiffs’ attorney, J Arthur Smith III, must have agreed to exclude evidence that would have shown the owners of Jefferson Lakes Apartments & Riverstone Residential had knowledge of the severe MOLD INFESTATION at the complex before we moved in
Political Action Committee – National Apartment Association (NAA) files Amicus Brief in mold case (two infant deaths in mold filled apt – Wasatch Prop Mgmt) citing US Chamber/ACOEM ‘litigation defense report’ to disclaim health effects of indoor mold & limit financial risk for industry
“Changes in construction methods have caused US buildings to become perfect petri dishes for mold and bacteria to flourish when water is added. Instead of warning the public and teaching physicians that the buildings were causing illness; in 2003 the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, a think-tank, and a workers comp physician trade organization mass marketed an unscientific nonsequitor to the courts to disclaim the adverse health effects to stave off liability for financial stakeholders of moldy buildings. Although publicly exposed many times over the years, the deceit lingers in US courts to this very day.” Sharon Noonan Kramer