Mold on the interior door to a storage room and entry to the underground chase at the Drew County Courthouse where the radiator pipes are serviced.

After he took office, Drew County Judge Robert Akin noticed a black substance covering his desk. “It blew out of the air conditioning ducts onto our desks,” he said.

That substance, he said, is some type of black mold that has sickened some county employees.

Akin doesn’t know if it is the common black mold that it is found in households or a potentially toxic type of mold, but he intends to find out soon.

Akin has called on Morris & Associates, architects and environmental consultants from Scott, Arkansas, to look into the mold problem to determine its source and type.

“We know we’ve got mold — everybody’s got mold in this part of the United States because of the humidity — but there’s different types and some is bad and some isn’t so bad,” Akin said. “They’re going to check every duct system because the health and safety of our county employees is imperative; it’s our first priority.”

Akin said the mold seems to be more aggressive in the chase, the underground access where radiator pipes are serviced.

“The growth is less aggressive in the vents than it is in the chase but the chase is sealed off so we’re hoping our building is not as sick as we think it is,” he said.

Akin said he has not been sick but mold affects different people different ways. “People who are allergic to mold tend to have a lot more problems,” he said.

Donna Ward, the county’s solid waste manager, is one of those who have had problems.

“It started out with a sore throat after seeing all of that black stuff on top of my desk,” Ward said. “Then I had a bad cough, then a pain in my chest.”

An employee in the county collector’s office and the judge’s secretary, who is allergic to mold, also became ill.

“Her eyes were watering and she started coughing so bad she had to stick her head out a window to get some fresh air,” Ward said, referring to the judge’s secretary.

Akin said the county employees began to get better when he stopped running the air conditioning unit that services his and Ward’s office.

Morris & Associates, who are also working with the county on an open sewage problem at Winchester, have agreed to expedite their inspection of the courthouse and get some answers before the next quorum court meeting.

“I’d rather face it head on and be proactive and get the problem solved than to sit here while people get sick,” Akin said.