Six military families claim they were recently driven from their Keesler Air Force Base homes by the spread of toxic mold, and five other families are still living in their mold-affected houses, the Biloxi Sun-Herald reported.
All eleven families are suing Hunt Southern Group and Hunt MH Property Management, the companies that own and manage the base housing there, over the outbreak of the mold in their homes and the inadequate treatment the companies allegedly provided, which included a simple attempt at removal using soap and water. Specifically, the companies have been accused of fraud, conspirinig to conceal dangerous conditions, breach of contract and gross negligence.
According to the lawsuit, residents' complaints about the mold started in 2015, and in 2017 environmental testing of the homes led to the discovery of high levels of aspergillus and some stachybotrys. Aspergillus is a fairly common form of mold that does not harm most healthy people in moderation, but a high concentration of the mold can cause long infections, and can spread to other organs. Stachbotrys is better known for its colloqiual name of “black mold” and can cause serious health issues.
According to the Sun Herald, the lawsuits allege that the mold grew in the houses because of poor insulation in the air conditioning system, which led to duct sweats and water damage, a breeding ground for mold. And after the mold began to really spread, the two companies allegedly failed to properly address the issue despite “repeated requests” for help.
Cindy Gersch, vice president of corporate communications for Hunt companies, told the newspaper that the companies have addressed the issues by modifing heating and air conditioning systems to prevent condensation in high humidity. Gersch also claims the companies have hired additional maintainance staff to address the health hazards.
In their lawsuits, the families are seeking compensation for medical bills, moving expenses, punitive damages and attorneys' fees.
The families all live or lived in homes in West Falcon, Thrower Park and Bay Ridge subdivisions, which are on Air Force property in Biloxi. They were among more than 1,000 homes built as part of a $287 million housing construction project after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The project culminated in March 2010 under the Hunt Building Construction company.
The lawsuits are pending in the U.S. District Court in Gulfport.
Noah Nash is a rising senior at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. At school, he is the editor in chief of the Collegian Magazine and the digital director of the Collegian, Kenyon's newspaper.