A follow up session on Grow-Ops & Mould was held at the GTAA.

Article by Building Blocks Magazine

Sponsored by Rainbow Mississauga Ltd., a Blue Ribbon Panel provided amazing insights into this complicated and sometimes uncertain scenario of Grow-Ops and the chain reaction which can be put into play once they have been discovered. 

Bruce T. Vogt was back in action as the facilitator and moderator of the panel discussion and presentation on Grow-Ops & Mould. Bruce conducted the first Grow-Ops & Mould session to the GTAA audience in October, 2006 and has a wealth of knowledge and appeal on a variety of remediation subjects. 

Det. Doug McCutcheon, a 25 year veteran with the Toronto Police Department shared some vivid images of real investigations in recent Grow-Op discoveries. Currently 55% of grow op arrests are made in multi-residential dwellings. Detective McCutcheon stated that while the complications from mould are a likely outcome from a grow operation - the increased risk of fire is also an issue that should not be ignored. High intensity lighting and compromised electrical set-ups, which often include exposed hydro wires are also a danger when dismantling a grow-op. Detective McCutcheon stressed the importance of reporting grow operations to the police as these set-ups are usually linked to organized crime. 

Shawn Ellis, an environmental hygienist with Building Health Centre Inc. reviewed his role as a toxicologist in Mould Remediation. He shared some practical and simple insights in dealing with mould issues to not only manage the problems associated with proper remediation, but addressing occupant comfort during the process. Shawn has attended over 1,500 buildings in his 10 years of experience and revealed that the best defense in any mould situation is being proactive to minimize risks. A professional environmentalist will work independently to request quotes from separate remediation contractors to bid on the scope of work as determined by initial testing of the area. The environmentalist should receive the results of his testing (air samples, surface sampling) from an independent laboratory and one not affiliated with him in any way. Shawn stressed that mould is manageable if you have the correct knowledge and resources. 

Dale Gair, a Master Restoration Technician with Rainbow Mississaga Ltd. explained the containment process in remediating mould. There are three classifications for mould as follows; Level 1 (small scale) under 1 square metre (10 square feet); Level 2 (medium scale) measures between 1- 10 square metres (10- 100 square feet); Level 3 ( large scale) can measure over 10 square metres (greater than 100 square feet). Mould can be deceiving as surface areas can often hide a larger, underlying issue once remediation begins. Mould spores are like a dandelion seeds and if proper containment is not set up on remediation, can migrate. 

Once the remediation process has begun, proper protection of the workers is of major significance. Workers are suited in a Tyvek suit, boots, goggles, rubber boots and several pairs of gloves. The remediation suit does not “breathe” so workers are often limited to stretches of an hour or less at one time. Materials need to be cut out separately and carefully so that the mould spores are not sent into migration. The containment unit will often have several chambers to ensure that the workers do not carry any mould spores out of the area during the process. 

At the end of the remediation work, the environmentalist will come back and inspect the site to document that the area has been restored to proper levels. From Shawn Ellis's perspective he is out to fail the contractor once he returns to the site to do his final testing. Full and proper documentation is an important part of this process to indicate the area is safe. 

Richard Elia, from Elia & Associates addressed the legal concerns regarding grow-ops and mould. His best advice was that of prevention as it is often very difficult, if not impossible to litigate in a grow-op situation. There is just no financial recourse. The best defense against mould problems is of course, proper remediation, done promptly and efficiently. 

A question and answer period followed the panel presentation and allowed the audience to ask specific and direct questions to the Blue Ribbon panel. Powerful and current information was shared during this session for the GTAA membership. 

In conclusion - if left to grow or in a “grow”, mould will take on a life of its' own.

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