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State: No black mold found in State House offices getting emergency renovation

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The results are in: no black mold was found in the Joint Committee on Legislative Services office, adding another twist to the saga that had investigators searching a State House dumpster a week ago.

Top aides to House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello had said last week “black mold” was the impetus for an emergency renovation job in the JCLS offices that included the removal of carpeting, filing cabinets and other material from the office. The work raised eyebrows because it coincided with a state police probe and a lawsuit involving JCLS.

After the work had begun, the R.I. Department of Administration — which manages the State House buildings — said it learned from JCLS that no mold test was conducted before the work began, so officials there ordered a test. That report, done by Silva Environmental & Associates and released Monday, found no evidence of black mold.

“[We] did not find black mold. Not at all, completely zero,” said M. Frank Silva, an industrial hygienist at the company.

The report did find a “moderate” level of mold spores in air samples from the office, but the technician who conducted the test told Target 12 it was not unusual and did not indicate a cause for concern. Also, some flooring was removed prior Silva’s inspection of the containment area, making it impossible to check the original areas.

State police officials said they responded to the State House last Monday night out of an abundance of caution after receiving a tip about possible improper disposal of documents out of the JCLS office. Target 12 watched an investigator looking through a large dumpster outside the State House where material from the offices had been disposed.

In response to questions about the renovation, Mattiello’s spokesperson Larry Berman said an employee discovered black mold under her desk, which resulted in the evacuation of the offices and the ripping out and disposing of materials. The renovations were undertaken by Single Source, which did not conduct a test for mold before starting work.

Single Source is a Warwick company owned by the Pomeranz family, which has given more than $4,000 to prominent members of the Democratic Party – including JCLS members Mattiello and House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi – since 2015.

Single Source owner Mike Pomeranz said his company was never hired to do mold remediation. “It is not the responsibility of Single Source to request mold testing,” he wrote in an email.

In response to the test results, Berman said “we are glad the test results came back the way they did following the steam pipe leak and water damage.”

“We appreciate that the Department of Administration took quick and decisive action to protect the health and safety of our employees,” Berman said in a statement. “Once the DOA finishes the reconstruction of the office, we look forward to our employees returning to work in that space.”

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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