Even those of us who keep an eye peeled for news of natural disasters may have missed the recent flooding in Central New York’s Herkimer. Oneida, and Otsego Counties. If you missed it, too, you can read about the storm’s initial impact here and here.
Thanks to the help of our amazing volunteer Sarah VanDenbergh, a native of the recently devastated region, R&R was able to travel to Oneida and Herkimer Counties to help flood-affected residents grapple with an impending mold epidemic. First, Sarah arrived on the scene, connected with locally-run volunteer groups, and assessed the damage. Once again, we found ourselves working against the clock to dispel myths about what works and what doesn’t when fighting mold growth, and measuring moisture levels in residents’ homes to help them determine the best way forward. This time, however, Sarah took the wheel, since relief efforts are much more effective when guided by locals.
Unfortunately, wherever we go, we find ourselves coming up against the same faulty assumptions about how to rid one’s house of mold. Many people think bleach is sufficient for remediating mold, and many are unaware that a home must be thoroughly dried out with very powerful dehumidifiers in order to truly tackle the issue. Still others buy products that are not intended for the scope of a flood-induced infestation. When Sarah reported back on the scope of the disaster and the lack of assistance in the area, we loaded up our trusty truck and headed upstate.
If you’re reading this, please help us spread the word: When a home has been flooded, BLEACH IS NOT THE SOLUTION FOR KILLING MOLD. While everyone uses bleach to fight the type of mold we see in our bathrooms or kitchens, bleach is not intended for killing large scale mold growth after flooding, and is not intended for use on porous surfaces like wood that will only be made more moist and more susceptible to mold after the initial bloom is wiped off.
At our peak, Respond & Rebuild had six relief volunteers in Central, NY. Geoff, Gabi, Ravin, Sharmini, and Terri headed up with drying equipment and other tools and met Sarah to coordinate a response. The weekend was spent drying out flooded homes, removing debris, and talking to community members about best practices to stay safe and rebuild healthfully after a flood. Many of the issues we encountered were much the same as they were in NYC. It was mainly the backdrop that was different.
Sarah and Ravin stayed for a bit, and in total conducted 3 mold information sessions, gutted 3 homes, dried out several more, and assessed 50 homes and consulted with residents there on the best way forward. Sarah’s local hometown news channel caught her work in action, and she was featured on CBS Albany in this video.
We want to thank Sarah and everyone who spent their days off helping residents make a little more sense of flood recovery. We know it’s not easy, and for those in Central NY, where FEMA has not authorized financial assistance to individual residents, recovery efforts are that much tougher.