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Toxic mould discovered at Supreme Court

Registrar Shade Subair Williams

“Alarming” traces of toxic mould have been discovered inside three rooms in the Supreme Court Registry Office, The Royal Gazette can reveal.

The find has prompted two exhibit vault rooms and an outside file room to be classified as “uninhabitable” and consequently put out of bounds for all registry staff.

Registrar, Shade Subair Williams, sent out a circular this week outlining how different kinds of toxic mould were detected in the rooms after an independent firm was brought in to take air samples inside the building on Front Street in Hamilton.

“In light of these alarming results, registry staff will not be permitted for any reason to access either of the two exhibit vault rooms or the outside file room,” Ms Subair Williams said.

“Efforts for these areas to be fully decontaminated and, indeed, for Registry relocation are under way.”

The Supreme Court circular, which was distributed to the legal community on Tuesday, identified three specific varieties of toxic mould that were found in the affected rooms.

Ms Subair Williams added: “The Registry of the Supreme Court located on 113 Front Street was tested by Bermuda Water Consultants Limited for the presence of mould. The toxic moulds Stachybotrys, Aspergillus/Penicillium and Chaetomium were all identified as being present in the airborne samples tested.

“Stachybotrys and Chaetomium was identified specifically in both of the exhibit vault rooms and the outside file room. These areas were reported as being uninhabitable.”

The circular provides information on each of the three kinds of toxic mould found and states that Stachybotrys is the most “infamous” toxic mould because it can grow in houses and is extremely dangerous to humans.

Chaetomium is described as a “causative agent of infections in humans”, while Aspergillus/Penicillium is prevalent in water-damaged buildings.

“For the most part, the exhibit vault rooms store documentary exhibits in respect of past and pending Supreme Court trials,” Ms Subair Williams said.

“The outside file room stores mostly files for cases in the divorce jurisdiction of the Supreme Court from 2011 and prior. Additionally, mostly all civil and commercial files dating from 2010 and prior are housed in the outside file room.” The discovery of toxic mould in the Supreme Court Registry Office follows the first toxic mould civil damages case to be brought in Bermuda.

Police officer, Emmerson Donald, was awarded $5.4 million after suffering chronic health problems from being exposed to toxic mould at Hamilton and Somerset police stations.

Mr Donald took his case against the Department of Works and Engineering to the Supreme Court last year claiming his “body and mind were broken down” and his “life was hijacked” by the illness.

The department admitted liability and after hearing arguments from both sides, a damages award was provisionally set at a little over $4.5 million. However, the final figure was increased to $5.4 million.

At the time, Mr Donald’s lawyer, Richard Horseman, said: “We are presently aware of other government premises now that are in very poor condition and we believe the health of persons who work in or have worked in these buildings have been adversely affected.

“There will clearly be more of these types of cases in the future. Hopefully, the Donald case will bring home that you cannot ignore the risk that toxic mould poses to the health of workers.”