South County Senior Center study finds asbestos, lead paint and mold

  • The South County Senior Center on North Main Street in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/15/2021 5:22:33 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — As Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately look for a place to host seniors with winter approaching, an environmental assessment of the South County Senior Center found asbestos, lead paint and mold in the 90-year-old building.

The report, conducted by Easthampton-based Green Environmental Consulting, found the second floor and basement contained the majority of contaminants, which Deerfield Police Chief John Paciorek Jr. said would require an extensive, and expensive, rehabilitation process.

“(Remediation) is something that absolutely needs to be considered in the future, however, it’s cost prohibitive at this point,” Paciorek said at a Senior Center Board of Oversight meeting earlier this week. (While not a member of the board, Paciorek has been involved in the search for a new building for the Senior Center.) “If you’re going to remediate that, it’s got to be taken ultimately to studs, and when it is, you’re talking $1 million to $4 million.”

Paciorek said the high price tag comes from the full rehabilitation of the North Main Street building, along with making sure it is accessible and meets all regulations.

“If you’re going to take it to studs, you’re going to make the whole building useful,” Paciorek said. “When you do, you’re going to put in an exterior elevator, you’re going to bring it up to code. It’s a massive, massive project.”

The Senior Center has had limited use since it was shut down by the pandemic in March 2020. The seniors have been using a tent on the front lawn for programs.

Floor tiles on the second floor were found to contain 10% chrysolite, the most common form of asbestos according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while a pipe insulation in the southeast basement room contained 20% chrysolite and pipe insulation in the hall contained 40% chrysolite.

Asbestos is a toxic material associated with lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, according to the EPA.

Absestos-containing materials do not need to be removed if they are maintained and in good shape to “prevent releases of visible or particulate asbestos emissions,” according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Paint found in the second floor’s southeastern room, hall and northwestern room was found to contain 13%, 11% and 7.4% lead concentration, respectively. The percentages are measured as percent lead by the sample’s weight, according to the environmental assessment.

Lead is a toxic chemical that causes a wide range of serious health issues in children and pregnant women, but is also known to cause cardiovascular and kidney issues in adults. Any paint surface containing more than 0.5% lead concentration is subject to the EPA’s Toxic Substances Control Act, which requires reporting, record-keeping and testing requirements.

In terms of mold, the environmental assessment found carpets in the Senior Center’s basement were “wet to the touch” and signs of water intrusion are visible. The first floor and second floor have a low and moderate likelihood of fungal growth, while the basement had a high likelihood of fungal growth.

The report notes fungal spores inside should be similar to those found outdoors, but the basement samples were “generally dissimilar to those in the outdoor sample.” The levels of penicillium and aspergillus — both of which indicate the presence of water — spores were found to be nearly 10 times higher than the levels measured outdoors.

The Deerfield Selectboard has been making plans to move seniors into the South Deerfield Congregational Church next door to the Senior Center once the weather gets colder. The church needs handicap-accessible bathrooms and ramps as well as general maintenance, Selectboard Chair David Wolfram said at a Sept. 8 meeting.

Wolfram said the environmental assessment is discouraging and the town should spend some money — an article for transferring funds has been added to the Oct. 4 Special Town Meeting warrant — to house seniors during the winter months.

“I know it’s an expenditure, but I personally think it’s an expenditure we have to make,” Wolfram said. “I personally don’t think we’ll get them back in that building.”

Wolfram said the use of a tent cannot continue into the cold months and something needs to be done, even if it “isn’t a permanent solution.”

“Right now we’re looking at fall’s coming, winter’s coming, they’re in a tent right now,” Wolfram said. “Even if we spend $20,000 to $30,000, it’s money well spent.”

Fellow Deerfield Selectboard member Carolyn Shores Ness said more discussions need to be held on a “long-term fix.”

“We’ve got to get the seniors into a decent space,” Shores Ness said in a phone interview. “We’ve got to give them a space that’s indoor and do some programs at least over the winter.”

She added the town needs to discuss the financial aspects of its plans and whether it’s feasible to rehabilitate the Senior Center.

“It’s very difficult to make the decision right now,” Shores Ness said. “We’ve got to figure out how to do it and if we’re going to do it.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.




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