Corrections Officer Brian Englert on Thursday addressed the Allegheny County Jail Oversight Board about one of his colleagues who “is having a lot of respiratory issues, due to what many of us feel is a black mold condition on the housing unit he worked at.” The problem began as skin irritations and progressed to respiratory problems, which have worsened, Officer Englert said.
“We really feel that [he] should be covered under some sort of Workman’s Comp,” he told the board.
Warden Orlando Harper said the issue had been investigated and there was no problem.
“We had the Health Department come in. And we had an outside entity come to that unit and cleared that unit,” the warden told the board. “I want to assure the board that my employees’ safety is the utmost concern and that we have … done everything in our power to ensure that our employees are safe. So that unit has been cleared.”
A spokeswoman for the Allegheny County Health Department said the department “was not involved in the recent mold investigation.” A private company was hired by the jail, said health department spokeswoman Melissa Wade.
Allegheny Global Environmental conducted an investigation Oct. 30, said Amie Downs, a spokeswoman for Allegheny County. “The company found no evidence of any strain of black mold,” she wrote in an email.
The roof is being replaced over that section of the jail, Officer Englert said. “Pull the ceiling tiles down and make sure there’s no black mold on the underside of that tile. Make sure it’s not on the sub-ceiling,” he said.
The mold complaints are among the causes of tension between corrections officers and management at the jail. The officers view Warden Harper and Deputy Warden Simon Wainwright as overly concerned with what they view as minor disciplinary infractions. Even the fight over mold, corrections officers complain, has become mired in rules and threats.
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