Located at 405 S. Third St. in Ironton, mold was first discovered in the office in September 2009.
“We did extensive environmental tests from 2009 up through this past July and all of the indoor quality tests were normal,” said Doug Nguyen, SSA Deputy Regional Communications Director in Chicago.
He said the agency took steps to remediate the problem and there were no reported illnesses related to the mold. Despite its attempts to fix the problem, the agency found new areas of mold and closed the Ironton office on Monday. Nguyen said they were closing the office out of an abundance of caution.
“We are in the process of identifying a location where Social Security staff will provide limited services in the Ironton community until their new office (is complete),” Nguyen said.
The new office is under construction now at 611 Vernon St. in Ironton and is scheduled to open in November.
Members of the local union are questioning why it took two years for the agency to act.
“Employees at the Ironton Social Security office have had to work in a building infested with mold for more than two years, and many have developed eye, throat and respiratory irritations. We’ve been fighting with SSA management to get this facility shut down for two years. Although we are pleased the agency has taken notice, it’s a travesty that employees have had to suffer through two years of breathing mold-infested air due to inaction by SSA leadership,” said Dave Sheagley, president of AFGE Local 3448. “The mold created an unsafe work environment and put the employees and the public whom they serve at risk.”
No employees have lost their jobs, Nguyen said. While a new SSA facility is under construction in Ironton, employees are being temporarily transferred to surrounding area offices in Portsmouth, Gallipolis, Ashland, Ky., and Huntington, W.Va.
Customers can also continue their in-office business at any of those locations.
“Most of our applications and services don’t require an in-office visit. They can certainly apply for benefits or sign-up for direct deposit or change an address through our website at www.socialsecurity.gov, and our toll-fee number is (800) 772-1213 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” Nguyen said.
In July, the SSA also announced that many offices — including Portsmouth and Ironton — were reducing daily business hours by 30 minutes each day to adjust to recent congressional budget cutbacks.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235, or email@example.com.