MOSH inspects building in Towson

Office tower subject of health complaints

June 09, 2000|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

State occupational health officials conducted an unannounced inspection yesterday at a Towson office tower where employees repeatedly have complained of breathing difficulties.

Workers with Maryland Occupational Safety and Health arrived about 11:30 a.m. at the Investment Building in Towson, a 13-story office tower that has been the source of frequent and persistent health complaints by state and county workers. They spent about three hours inside, talking to employees, taking air samples and viewing mold damage.

"I even saw things that I haven't seen before," said Marina Eddy, an information systems supervisor with the county Department of Social Services who accompanied inspectors as they toured about half of the floors. "They got good pictures of mold coming out of the vents. They got lots of stories from people. They got the big picture."

A day earlier, county officials had announced that they were requesting a MOSH inspection after a preliminary survey of building conditions revealed a host of maintenance-related problems.

"I'm very glad to see that the state responded so quickly," said George G. Perdikakis, head of the county Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management. "We're talking about people."

Inspectors would not comment on what they found, whether further visits are planned or when results might be available.

"The one thing they don't do is disclose information until there is a conclusion," said Marco Merrick, a spokesman with the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Baltimore County pays nearly $900,000 a year to lease space in the building, where 700 state and county employees work, mainly in the county health and social services departments. The building is owned by A.M.G. Realty Partners of New York.

Lee Baylin, an attorney representing the owners, said he doesn't think the inspectors found conditions that warrant emergency action. "I asked them if there was anything they want us to do on an immediate basis, and they said no," Baylin said.

For years, workers have complained about poor ventilation. The concerns took on renewed urgency in October, when an employee was diagnosed with Legionnaire's disease. The bacterium that causes the disease was found inside the ventilation system, and the building was treated. No definitive connection between the cooling systems and the employee's illness was established.

The owners say they plan to replace leaking windows and overhaul the ventilation system in hopes of solving problems.

County tests have shown sufficient fresh air circulating through the building, as measured by acceptable levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

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