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Leaks trigger mold in new city hotel Officials say
problems found, rooms fixed Intelligencer Journal

Lancaster New Era

Jul 22, 2009 06:01 EST

Leaking pipes left more than water stains in the recently opened Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square.

Video that was shot before last month's grand opening — obtained by WGAL from an unnamed source — shows water leaking from a pipe and areas of black and yellow mold growing on walls.

News 8, which brought in a certified mold remediator to view the video, said their expert reported "extensive mold."

"I was pretty shocked," said WGAL's expert, Ted Gallagher of EHC Associates. "It is pretty severe. It is growing on both sides of the drywall."

Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray said the mold issue "was a while ago."

"Before they opened, there were some leaks in the building," Gray said. "They found mold in some of the rooms and tore the rooms out and totally redid them."

In a story that appeared in last week's Sunday News, Thomas D. Smithgall of High Real Estate and Penn Square Partners acknowledged that water leaks rendered about 20 of the hotel's 300 rooms unusable for a few weeks.

Gary Horning, chief of the City of Lancaster's Bureau of Code Compliance and Inspections, also called the leaks "minor."

No mention of mold was made.

Smithgall said Tuesday that the problem was two-fold.

The first problem occurred when water from a rooftop cooling system was diverted down an emergency drain system.

"A fitting on that system failed, and we got water into the upper two floors of the building," Smithgall said.

This leak affected rooms on the hotel's topmost floors, he said. To correct it, sections of drywall and vinyl wall-covering were removed and replaced and the areas dried.

Then, "a few days before we opened," Smithgall said, water was put into the hotel's pressurized hot water distribution system, a system of pipes that carries hot water to the rooms. Numerous slow leaks developed that were not easily detected. These leaks affected between 20 and 24 rooms, mainly around the elevator shaft, on "floors 10 through 19," Smithgall said.

Because "we knew we had water in more than just one or two selected areas," Smithgall said, a professional remediation firm was brought in to test for mold. The firm found "detectable levels of mold inside the building."

"We immediately went in, removed all the drywall and all the insulation in all the rooms impacted and rebuilt all those areas over the last two or three weeks," Smithgall said.

As of now, "all the rooms have been remediated, and all have been tested. Our testing agency has given us an all-clear," he said.

"This is an issue we felt we dealt with when the problem arose," Smithgall said. "No one from the general public was in the rooms. Our first objective was to make sure that the general public was not exposed."

On July 7, the hotel and convention center passed indoor air-quality standards, and city health officials toured the building Tuesday.

"Our building inspector came through with our health department today," Gray said. "They found everything in order. They didn't find anything."

Penn Square Partners consists of Penn Square General Corp., an affiliate of the High Companies, and Penn Square Ltd. LLC, an affiliate of Lancaster Newspapers Inc., publisher of the Sunday News and the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era.

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