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Air Traffic Controllers at Kansas City International Tower Worry About Mold - (10/24/2007)

CONTACT:  Kevin Peterson, Kansas City Intl. Airport Facility Rep., 816-294-5519; Howard Blankenship, NATCA Central Regional V.P., 913-390-9146; Alex Caldwell, 202-220-9813, acaldwell@natcadc.org

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Air traffic controllers at the control tower and radar room of Kansas City International Airport (MCI) are working in a building that has a serious mold problem.  This is, at least, the second attempt by the FAA to conduct mold removal within the past four years.  Mold was discovered in the facility in 2003 and latest inspections by the FAA indicate it has returned – causing the FAA to begin mold removal.

NATCA is concerned about the FAA’s plans for removal and its inability to get the job done right.  Kevin Peterson, MCI Facility Representative, says the Union has not been invited to meetings concerning mold findings and removal.   Peterson commented that over the past several years he has seen numerous controllers experience unexplained illness including hearing loss, migraine headaches and rashes.  “When you find out you have been working in a mold infested building for the past four to five years it makes you start to wonder how many of these illnesses were caused by the mold,” he said.

Just this month the FAA began another attempt to remove mold in the facility, including inside the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON).  Peterson says that mold removal crews have told him they are discovering more mold in the building as they work. Peterson says this is evidence that the FAA has not conducted proper testing and made an accurate analysis of the problem.  

The tower at Kansas City International is identical to the tower at Detroit Metro.  Controllers in Detroit filed a lawsuit in Wayne County, Michigan Circuit Court regarding a nearly three-year-old problem of toxic black mold that has sickened many controllers, including several who have missed significant amounts of work and continue to suffer breathing and other serious health problems. The suit contains allegations that contractors hired by the Federal Aviation Administration failed to properly remove mold and provide a work plan for effective removal of mold contamination.  According to Peterson, Kansas City has the same issue.  “We are seeing contractors hauling wheel barrows of mold-contaminated material in our hallways and up and down in the same elevator employees use.”  

Earlier this month the terrible mold infestation at Atlanta Center (the nation’s busiest air traffic control facility) was brought to the media’s attention.  Scopulariopsis spores, a highly toxic fungus, has so far caused approximately half of the more than 300 controllers in the facility to suffer from various degrees of health problems over a prolonged period of time.

Victor Santore, NATCA Southern Regional Vice President, spoke to the serious health hazards caused by the mold at Atlanta Center and how the FAA responded with deaf ears to the growing number of pleas from the controllers, “The FAA ignored the warnings and pleas of the workforce and issued sick leave abuse letters instead,” Santore said.

The FAA’s plan of action in response to the situation at Kansas City is in direct contradiction of the industry standard of care.  Building materials in two rooms will be removed without containment, negative pressure enclosure, or decontamination units.  Dusty environmental conditions will be allowed to exist inside containment areas.  Porous building materials are being wiped down with detergent rather than being removed – adding insult to injury, the specific detergents to be used are left to the choice of the contractor; some detergents are food for mold spores.  These ignorant attempts, in combination with the union’s representatives not being allowed in meetings where management was discussing and developing the remediation plan, only further proves the FAA’s blatant disrespect for its controllers.

Kansas City Tower, one of the top 50 busiest radar approach control facilities in the country, is only one out of a seemingly unending list of mold-riddled air traffic control facilities across the nation.  From New York Center to O’Hare International, Sioux Falls Tower and Southern California TRACON the mold crisis grows exponentially without any viable solution offered by the FAA.  NATCA has requested that it be allowed to bring in its own environmental experts but so far the FAA has refused.

ON THE WEB:  http://www.natca.org/mediacenter/Mold.msp

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