Paul Ouellette, 82, is a resident of Pejepscot Terrace, a senior living apartment complex in Brunswick. Ouellette and other residents claim recent wet weather has created moldy conditions within their dwellings. Ben McCanna / Portland Press Herald

Tenants at Pejepscot Terrace, a primarily low-income senior housing complex in Brunswick, sought refuge amid Maine’s growing housing crisis and soaring cost of living. Some tenants said they did not anticipate having to spend their later years fighting mold issues for the first time in their lives.

This year, a handful of residents at Pejepscot Terrace stepped forward, concerned about apparent mold growth in their apartments. After a town inspection and subsequent all-clear from the fire department, some said they are still grappling with management to do more to address the risk of mold. Management, however, said the fix boils down to changing lifestyles and that residents are responsible for prevention.

The terrace, which first started developing in the late 1970s near a wetland forest, offers rental support to most tenants and is highly sought after, according to terrace board President Helen Watts. The waitlist for the one- and two-bedroom units, she said, still includes people who have been waiting for five years for a unit to open up.

The Times Record and Portland Press Herald spoke to six residents who said they experienced mold issues in the past few years. Many asked not to be named, fearing retribution.

Several residents told The Times Record that LaBrecque Property Corp, the company that manages the terrace, has told residents to keep their heat pumps running and use dehumidifiers to keep moisture down and fight mold, which some residents have said is inconvenient and falls short of preventing the problems.

‘I’d just been quietly dealing with it’

One woman who asked to remain anonymous told the Portland Press Herald that she first found mold years ago. In the spring of 2017, just months after she moved in, she opened up a drawer and found that her items were covered in it.


She said she began spending money every month on 15 dehumidifier packs, at $1 each, which would absorb water from the air and then need to be thrown away.

“I’d just been quietly dealing with it, accepting responsibility that I live here,” she said. “But then the rain came last summer and everything accelerated.”

Servpro, a residential service company, was called in to inspect the mold issue in her unit. She said she purposely left a patch of mold on the wall and pointed it out to the inspector, along with the backs of her furniture which were also covered in mold. At the time of the interview, she said she had still not seen the results of the report.

“It’s climate change, it’s happening all over the state, it’s happening all over the world, but we’ve had no response,” she said, echoing a sentiment shared by several other residents.

Paul Ouellette, 82, in front of his residence at Pejepscot Terrace. Ben McCanna / Portland Press Herald

Paul Ouellette, 82, has lived in Pejepscot Terrace since 2014. He said he did not realize at first that what he was dealing with was mold.

“Most of us knew nothing about this. And it took a while — because I’ve had it for more than one season — it took a while for us to kind of figure out what was going on,” Ouellette said.


Ouellette noticed that his sneakers started squeaking on his kitchen floors after walking in his carpeted bedroom or living room. He realized that the carpet was damp. He eventually found mold in his kitchen cabinets and on his fridge.

Another resident who asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation told The Times Record that she noticed mold for the first time last summer.

She said it accumulated on her fridge, rug and nightstand, permeating the wood and fabric to the point that she had to throw many items out.

While she believes management is attempting to rectify the situation, she said she wants them to work on drainage in the complex and not place the burden of mitigation on the residents.

“We shouldn’t have to live like this,” she said. “[But] I was fortunate, I wasn’t as bad as some other people.”

Ouellette eventually took matters into his own hands and contacted Brunswick Fire Department earlier this year and submitted a complaint. Then-Inspections Officer Jeff Emerson, who retired in May, told The Times Record in April that management at the terrace cooperated with inspections and agreed to get an air-quality test done to detect mold levels.


Ouellette, however, said he is not convinced that management is fully addressing the issue.

“I don’t get a real sense of commitment to doing the right thing,” he said.

‘We need to make sure that the way we live doesn’t compound the problem’

Property Manager Steven LaBrecque said that during his seven years with the property, the mold cases reported in the fall were an anomaly. He recalled only one other mold case in 2022, which was taken care of by Servpro, he said.

Some of the fall complaints, Watts said, were old occurrences that resurfaced as residents grew concerned about mold. She also noted that Servpro, the company called in to handle mold on a case-by-case basis in the fall, did not do air-quality testing. She said there was no need for it at the time.

As an engineer with experience in structural barriers dealing with water accumulation, Watts said that she is familiar with issues that could cause mold — issues, she said, that are not present at the terrace.

Telltale signs like efflorescence — the white, powdery mineral deposits left on surfaces that indicate moisture is getting in — were not present in the carpeting that many of the units have, she said. She added that strategic landscaping, such as good drainage and sloping declines away from homes to prevent water buildup near foundations, are also key protections found at Pejepscot Terrace. Essentially, Watts said, water is not seeping up from the ground.


“There are two places where the water can come from,” Watts said. “It can come from the outside in or it can come from daily activities — living.” By that she means showers, especially if ventilation fans are not running in the bathroom, or moisture from cooking can also contribute. The terrace units have fans in the kitchens and bathrooms, she said.

Watts rejects claims of climate change being a culprit behind the recent mold cases, as she said Maine has always been humid, rainy and wet.

“The state of Maine — if we were further south — we’d be a rain forest. We get that much rain, even without all these weirdo storms,” she said. “So we need to make sure that the way we live doesn’t compound the problem.”

Mold trace findings

In a report Pejepscot Terrace Management provided to The Times Record, air-quality test results, which were collected by Square One Home Inspections on April 16, revealed traces of mold in the low range, with a few instances creeping into moderate.

Lt. Josh Shean of the Brunswick Fire Department, who is now handling inspection issues, said the results indicated that mold remediation was not needed.

“Overall, it seems like there may not have been as big an issue there as it was looking like it was originally going to be,” Shean said.


The fire department, he said, is taking no further steps on the matter.

After receiving the results, LaBrecque had a representative from Square One host a property-wide “informational and educational meeting” on May 16 to discuss mold mitigation. Labrecque believes about 40 residents showed up.

Based on a summary report of the meeting sent to residents on June 3, the Square One representative emphasized the importance of keeping surfaces clean, maintaining air flow in spaces like closets and frequently running the heat pumps, which are equipped with dehumidifiers and air conditioning features.

The representative also said that the heat pumps should be cleaned every three months and deep cleaned once a year to avoid mold issues. Those without heat pumps, he said, should run a central dehumidifier in the unit.

At the time of some of the tenant interviews in April, Servpro vans could be seen at the housing complex, with workers going from unit to unit to clean the heat pumps. Servpro completed a deep clean of the heat pumps as of May 15, likely for the first time, according to an email Pejepscot Terrace provided to The Times Record. The email did note that maintenance conducted a general cleaning once a year. Watts confirmed that maintenance teams will now clean the filters every three months.

Since many of the apartments are Housing and Urban Development units, LaBrecque also applied for electricity costs to be covered through HUD given the increased need for running the heat pumps. As of May 10, the Pejepscot Terrace residents are no longer responsible for paying their electric bill, he said.

Currently, LaBrecque said, efforts are focused on education — how to prevent mold in the first place.

“I actually think that, you know, this year there were some complaints throughout the state about mold,” LaBrecque said. “I’m huge on educating everyone, including myself. We can always learn a little bit more.”

Portland Press Herald reporter Grace Benninghoff contributed to this report.

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