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You Can Lead A Horse To Water…

(Publisher’s Perspective: Indoor Environment Connections, Vol 3, Issue 7, May 2002)


Have you ever read an IAQ report that made the hair stand up on the back of your neck?  That’s what happened to me last month when a consultant sent me a copy of a mold assessment report written by a certified microbial abatement specialist.  

The report says “as we surveyed the house we found visible hyphae growing on the walls and ceiling”.  Visible hyphae.  This guy has a good eye.  The report goes on to name the mold as Stachybotrys, “which was identified by actual seeing and smelling the mold.”  Turns out we can all stop using labs – this fellow identifies mold by species with a sniff.  

The real kicker came at the end of the report.  “We recommend that the home located at__________ be considered a bio-hazard to the area, torn down, and disposed of in accordance with environmental regulations.  Attached please find our proposal for demolition, removal and disposal of debris, and reconstruction of the home.”  Talk about a full service mold abatement firm! 

I am being sarcastic about this, but it’s not a laughing matter.  The contractor, who wrote this report has 10 years of experience in the restoration field, attended a comprehensive class where he was taught proper remediation methods, and passed a challenging written exam.  He knew darn well his report was fallacious.  He was trained and certified on how to do the work right, but chose to go after the quick buck by preying on a desperate, uninformed elderly couple.

Fortunately the elderly couple sent the report to their insurance company.  The insurance company hired their own consultant who investigated the home.  He found substantial mold infestation, but nothing close to the tale the contractor wove.

How do you control the quality of work?  The answer is: you can’t.  People who know better will still sometimes take shortcuts.  An organization can certify knowledge and experience, but not integrity.  My example proves this point in the extreme.

There has been a lot of effort put forth in the last year to train and credential mold remediators.  There are at least four different nonprofit organizations competing to train and certify this profession.  But while we scramble to stake our claim in the training market, little or nothing is being done to address the issue of enforcement.

Credentials can and should be stripped from people who are found fraudulent, negligent, or incompetent.  That takes a lot of time and effort.  But in a field like mold remediation, there is no choice.  People’s health is at stake.

All of the associations doing mold abatement training run the risk of certifying an unscrupulous character.  The mold remediation certification programs that survive will be those that institute policing mechanisms to remove offenders when they are found.  It sounds easy enough, but it’s not.  Complaints require investigation, due diligence and must allow the accused the opportunity to defend themselves.  You better believe a lawyer will be involved.

I know organizations that spend tens of thousands investigating and prosecuting complaints about quality.  In the end the association is always better for the experience, regardless of the cost.  A program that doesn’t have an enforcement arm isn’t a complete program.

So, you are probably wondering what I did with that report.  It was tempting to take the easy way out and disregard it.  The contractor isn’t certified by the associations I am affiliated with.  But quite frankly, my conscience wouldn’t let me get away with ignoring what I had seen.

 I am trying to get the insurance company’s consultant or the insurance company to lodge a complaint with the certifying body.  So far, they refuse to get involved in something that could lead to a lawsuit.  Isn’t that ironic.  The homeowners are afraid of the contractor and won’t get involved either.  In all likelihood none of the interested parties will do anything, and the contractor won’t be stopped until he hurts someone.

 I don’t know how they sleep at night.

Written by:

Glenn Fellman

CEO & Publisher

Indoor Environment Connections

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