On Monday, Command Sgt. Maj. Quentin Fenderson, the 3rd Infantry Division enlisted senior leader said, “No one individual, group of individuals or agency here is responsible for or able to fix these concerns on their own. It’s a ‘whole of community’ effort.”
He directed a stand down to emphasize the value of engaged leaders in the barracks and certify leaders on how to properly tackle mold and other maintenance concerns. Throughout the week, senior leaders from across 3rd ID, Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield checked their units’ barracks following Soldiers voicing concerns to installation leaders and posting imagery of mold in rooms on social media. We will continue to assess, address, remediate, and maintain all of our facilities to ensure the quality of life and living conditions Soldiers deserve.
According to the installation’s Director of Public Works (DPW), mold can be found almost anywhere. It can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. It is very important that issues with HVAC system and leaks be quickly identified and repaired to prevent mold growth.
According to the CDC, “there is always a little mold everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces. Certain molds are toxigenic, meaning they can produce toxins (specifically “mycotoxins”). Hazards presented by molds that may produce mycotoxins should be considered the same as other common molds which can grow in your house. Not all fungi produce mycotoxins and even those that do will not do so under all surface or environmental conditions. Mold growth, which often looks like spots, can be many different colors, and can smell musty. Color is not an indication of how dangerous a mold may be. Any mold should be removed and the moisture source that helped it grow should be removed. It is impossible to eliminate all molds and mold spores in the indoor environment. However, indoor mold growth can be controlled by controlling indoor humidity.”
To combat mold in Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield facilities, it’s important to understand roles and responsibilities.
Level 1 Mold (less than 10 square feet) should be cleaned by the room/facility occupant and a work order needs to be submitted through the Army Maintenance Activity site, or ArMA app, and/or call the DPW work order number. The occupant will be contacted by the Mold Team for a Moisture Related Issues (MRI) assessment.
Clean with a non-chlorine based cleaner i.e. vinegar or lye based hand soap. Soak for an hour before drying. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including latex gloves, eye protection, surgical or other type mask. Leaders and Soldiers should not purchase equipment out of their own pocket and should procure these cleaners and PPE from DPW.
Level 2 Mold (10 to 25 square feet) is a unit building manager and mold team responsibility. After calling in a work order, the Mold Team conducts an MRI assessment, implements a cleaning plan and re-inspection appointment. This level should be cleaned with a hydrogen peroxide mix and PPE requirement includes: Tyvek suit, N95 Mask, latex gloves, eye protection, and air scrubber.
Level 3 Mold (more than 25 square feet) is a Mold Response Team responsibility and after calling in a work order, the occupant will be contacted by the Mold Team for an MRI assessment, containment actions, and will receive notice of timeline for possible reoccupation of dwelling.
It’s crucial to note that if Soldiers or Leaders suspect mold in duct work or HVAC systems, it must be addressed by DPW. Please call in a work order stating such.
Leaders can help combat mold. Before deployments contact DPW and the Mold team for a preventative walk-through planning for rear detachment (Even for extended field exercises). Routinely check the barracks- even just walking through hallways or common areas should give an indication of moisture levels or musty smells if mold is happening. Report water intrusions and other moisture related issues before mold colonies can develop.
Leaders should encourage Soldiers to use ArMA and/or call in suspected mold or moisture problems. Ensure windows and doors are kept closed so systems can function effectively. Obtain temporary dehumidifiers from the Facilities Management Office and may need to do so for common areas or in level 2 remediation where an active leak has been detected. Help provide access to PPE and resources from DPW for level 1 and 2 clean-ups as Soldiers should not purchase out of pocket. Ensure a work order is called in, regardless of how small the area for inspection and data collection. Finally, ensure people new to Coastal Georgia environment, (where the average relative humidity can be at or above 80%) know what to look for and how to address.
Additional actions implemented immediately by installation and division leadership include detailed unit reporting on mold in unit footprint; and, like severe weather planning, provide unit leaders a predictable ramp-up towards combating mold when the mold threat is at its worst.
Submit work orders to https://www.armymaintenance.com/arma or call (912) 767-2883 for Fort Stewart or (912) 315-4003 for Hunter Army Airfield.
Check out the CDC site for more information about mold: https://www.cdc.gov/mold/default.htm.