SOUTH PORTLAND — Mold has crept throughout most of the Cash Corner fire station, where remediation could cost the city more than $1 million.

The building at 360 Main St., described by Fire Chief James Wilson as “a time capsule of the 1970s,” has mold growing throughout the ceiling, in the insulation and behind the walls of its masonry and wood framework.

The problem was discovered about a year ago, Wilson said, when the department decided to replace the ceiling tiles. When the tiles were removed, mold was discovered.

The growth is due to a design that made the building air tight, and essentially created a “mold incubator,” the chief said.

There are several types of mold growing in the building, including black mold, Wilson said, although no firefighters have complained of any associated illnesses.

Last March the city hired Environmental Safety & Hygiene Associates to conduct an environmental and microbial assessment of the building.

The company found water damage in the crew quarters and exercise room, and visible water damage and mold growth on the ceiling tiles, drywall and wood paneling. Several species of mold were identified as being present in the station, according to the report.

The report stated that based on the data collected, “the structure has several conditions that could be environmental stressors that could be a hazard to human health and environment.”

The report continued to say although the assessment did not identify any significant elevations of airborne fungal spores in most of the building, it is evident the structure is burdened by water damage and fungal activity. Diesel dust accumulation was also noted in the report.

Wilson said the department has been dealing with the issue for a longer time than he would have liked, and is hopeful remediation can begin in the summer if the money is earmarked by the City Council during the annual budget process.

Remedying the problem will require striping the building to its bare bones, and a subsequent rebuilding. Wilson said the cost hovers at about $1 million, as estimated by civil engineering firm Sebago Technics, which was hired to assess the situation.

But City Manager Scott Morelli said the cost of ridding the building of mold will likely be closer to $1.3 million.

He said the issue must be addressed or it will get worse, and although it is not certain the money will be allocated, the work is needed and is considered a priority.

Fire Department officials will meet with the City Council in a March workshop to update the situation and the plans for reconstruction.

Wilson said the heating system and light fixtures, also original to the building, are antiquated and also need replacement.

He said if the money is approved by the city, all that’s needed is putting the contract out to a bid process, since the renovation plans are complete.

The station is staffed by three firefighters on one ladder truck with a fire pump. Two reserve trucks are also housed at the station, he said.

The department, including the central station on Broadway, serves a resident population of 25,000 people in a 13-square-mile area.

See the story at The Forecaster.