Oregon Hall air not any more transparent than Johnson Hall

9/19/2012 update: DeFazio gets results. I wonder if this means the UO Public Records Office is still going to refuse to give a public-interest fee waiver on the public records?

From: [email protected] [mailto:oregonhall-[email protected]] On Behalf Of Oregon Hall NewsSent: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 3:11 PM
To:[email protected]Cc: George Hecht; Donald Elting; Adam Jones; Debbie Cadigan
Subject: oregonhall: Oregon Hall Air Quality Update


Last week Campus Operations and Environmental Health and Safety held two informational sessions to discuss the recent OR-OSHA inspection findings regarding the air quality in Oregon Hall. The meetings discussed the Wise Steps findings. Wise Steps, Inc. is an industrial hygiene contractor that has also completed air sampling and other inspections as well as done research to determine the nature of the Oregon Hall building’s air problems.

Unfortunately, neither OR-OSHA nor Wise Steps investigations were successful in defining a source for the problems. All readings that were taken of various potential contaminates were within allowable standards.

I am writing each of you in Oregon Hall to keep you informed as to the next steps.

Both Campus Operations and Environmental Health and Safety are committed to working together with the different entities and users to continue research and mitigation efforts for the sources of the problem and to develop a strategy to address these issues as they become known. They work closely with numerous health and safety suppliers to ensure that every effort is being made to make the hall as safe as possible. Whether this is done by installing fire alarms or gas sensors, safety has to be a priority, especially when there are hazardous chemicals potentially in the area.

Oregon Hall has a very complex air intake, distribution and exiting system. There are numerous fan systems and controls that bring air in and filter, add heat or cooling and finally exhaust air out of the building. Over the years there have been many changes to the controls and systems to try to address remodeling that has taken place as well as air distribution and other changes to the building.

From what we have heard from building users, some building areas are experiencing minimal issues with various aspects of the air supply, while others are experiencing significant issues. We need to more clearly define the systems that are doing functioning properly, and those that need our priority attention.

In furtherance of that goal, within the next 10 days EHS will create and distribute a confidential survey for all building occupants to have an opportunity to respond to air quality issues and concerns. EHS has recently hired Adam Jones, an industrial hygienist who has performed intensive air quality evaluations in his career. Once Adam evaluates survey results, we will be able to determine the specific areas in which we need to work more intensively. Recipients’ names will remain confidential so all may have the opportunity to respond openly to the survey.

An Oregon Hall building website will be set up this fall on the Campus Operations site. This will provide a venue to share information and provide transparency.
We will have a description of the building’s systems, a history of the design issues, a brief history of systems’ work through the years and a building graphic that will help describe how the building operates. We will notify everyone when this website is operational.

We will post the results of the continuing investigation to define the problem areas and develop a remedy.

We realize and are sorry that Oregon Hall has proven to be a difficult working site. We are as baffled as you as to the source causing these issues but want you to know that we are committed to continuing our efforts to solve these problems.

George Hecht
Associate VP Finance & Administration
Campus Operations

Don Elting
Interim Director
Environmental Health and Safety
Enterprise Risk Services

9/13/2012 update:

Word is that Congressman Defazio has now contacted President Gottfredson on behalf of his constituents. So I guess the lesson for next time is just to skip George Hecht and the broken UO public records process and go straight to Pete.

9/12/2012 update v3:

Dave Hubin, you’ve been in charge of the public records office for more than a year. This is pathetic. President Gottfredson, please find someone to fix our Public Records office. And put your real email address in the UO directory.

I made the public records request for documents on past and planned spending on Oregon Hall air quality 4 weeks ago yesterday. I’d hoped to get something from the public records office before today’s meetings with the DEHS facilitator and OH staff. Sorry.

I got these at 4PM today. Spreadsheet one and two. It took the UO public records office a month and a day provide the information below. That’s all that’s in these files. The office is holding out for hundreds of dollars, and additional delays, before they will provide anything more substantive. Their letter is below. They’ve denied my request for a fee waiver – not enough public interest. But then they’ve denied every public interest fee waiver request anyone has made for the past 10 months, with the same claim. Most reporters have given up on even asking – a fact that UO’s interim PR officer used as part of her argument yesterday, to claim she was running the office well. No transparency, no trust.

Letter from PRO:

Attached, please find documents from Campus Operations showing money spent on the air quality at Oregon Hall from July 2010 to August 2012. This report was able to be completed fairly quickly, and is being provided to you at no cost.

The report indicates the work performed by Facility Services and Environmental Health and Services. Capital Construction has also been involved in work done at Oregon Hall. They will require a significant amount of employee time to respond to this request. Should you like the information from Capital Construction, the actual cost of responding to the request is $236.17. Upon receipt of a check made payable to the University of Oregon in that amount the office will proceed to locate, copy, and provide the records you have requested that are not exempt from disclosure. Your check may be sent to the attention of Office of Public Records, 6207 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-6207.

Please note that if the cost of preparing the documents for you is less than the estimate, we will refund the difference. If the cost of preparing the records for you exceeds the estimate, however, you may be charged for the difference.

Thank you for contacting us with your request.

9/11/2012 update v2:

There are a bunch of emails flying around about the meeting Wed. Some people are clearly worried that they may face retaliation from supervisors for getting involved in this issue, e.g.:

“Thank you for trying to make this a more inclusive process. Given the response, I think what needs to be done is this: the staff in each department in Oregon Hall, e.g., Financial Aid, Registrar, Admissions, need to receive an email from their supervisor and/or director explicitly inviting them to attend and telling them that this will count as work time if they choose to attend. Otherwise, we will still feel too unsafe to go.”

Still no documents from UO. The staff have apparently asked Pete Defazio’s office to get involved. And I just heard from PR Officer Lisa Thornton that she expects to have some cost data available very soon, and at no charge.

9/10/2012 update: It’s now more than 3 weeks since this public records request was filed, and still no documents. Apparently the PRO is doing what they can, but they don’t have much of a stick. Too bad Oregon doesn’t have a public records law like the one that just passed in Rhode Island, which imposes $1,000 fines on recalcitrant officials who create unreasonable delays. That’s right, UO’s now not only behind Yemen on public records access, we’re even behind Rhode Island, thanks to Dave Hubin and Bob Berdahl.

Why the delay? Word from JH is that there will be a meeting Wednesday with OH staff to discuss the air quality issues. I assume someone doesn’t want the staff affected by this problem to go into that meeting armed with any actual information.

I particularly like the fact they aren’t holding these meetings in OH – air’s too bad for the facilitator?

From: [email protected] [mailto:oregonhall-[email protected]] On Behalf Of Oregon Hall NewsSent: Monday, September 10, 2012 4:48 PM
Cc: Donald Elting
Subject: oregonhall: Oregon Hall Informational Meeting

As a follow up to the recent OR-OSHA inspection Environmental Health and Safety and Campus Operations are offering two informational sessions about the findings and efforts to identify areas of concern. Questions will be welcome after the presentation, however this is not an avenue to express complaints; normal channels continue to be available to express those concerns.
All employees who work in Oregon Hall are invited to one of the two informational meetings. Please coordinate in your respective departments so that the office does not close, but that anyone with the desire to attend one of the meetings is able to.
Meeting times are:
Wednesday, September 12, 2012; 9:00 – 9:30 am
Wednesday, September 12, 2012; 9:45 – 10:15 am
Willamette Hall 100 (Lecture Hall at the Southwest entrance)

Meeting Facilitator:
Don Elting, Interim Director Environmental Health and Safety

8/29/2012. Back in 2006 a very large group of Oregon Hall staff petitioned the UO administration, asking them to do something about air quality in the building. Mold, etc. But VPFA Frances Dyke had other priorities – like a $2.4 million remodel of Johnson Hall with new AC and wood paneling for her friends.

The problems have continued, and 2 weeks ago folks working there asked me to make a public records request for documents showing what UO had spent and planned to spend to fix it. Simple enough, but they didn’t want to make the request themselves, for fear of retaliation. All the requests are now posted online, so their supervisors can see. So they asked me to make the request because I’ve got tenure, and my name is already mud. No problem, the staff in that building help make my job easier every day, and I am happy to return the favor.

Today I got a response from UO’s public records office, saying it would cost $606 and change to see the documents:

The University of Oregon has received your public records request for “an itemized listing of money spent or budgeted to improve air quality in Oregon Hall, from July 1 2010 to the present” on 08/16/2012, attached. The office has at least some documents responsive to your request. By this email, the office is providing you with an estimate to respond to your requests.

The office estimates the actual cost of responding to your request to be $606.73. Upon receipt of a check made payable to the University of Oregon for that amount, the office will proceed to locate, copy, and provide the records you have requested that are not exempt from disclosure. Your check may be sent to the attention of Office of Public Records, 6207 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-6207.

Should you be interested in lowering the cost of your estimate, I would suggest eliminating the portion of your request relating to the amount budgeted to improve air quality in Oregon Hall, as it comprises the bulk of the estimate.

Please note that if the cost of preparing the documents for you is less than the estimate, we will refund the difference. If the cost of preparing the records for you exceeds the estimate, however, you may be charged for the difference. …

The Oregon DOJ says requests should typically be *fulfilled* in two weeks. But it takes UO 2 weeks just to create an estimate. And $607 is a little rich for our blood, even after that 27 cent discount, so we’ve cut back the request to just ask for what’s already been spent. Someday, and after paying some mysterious amount of money, we might even have some air quality documents to post. Hold your breath.

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44 Responses to Oregon Hall air not any more transparent than Johnson Hall

  1. Anonymous says:

    shouldn’t the budgeted amount take less time to figure out than an itemized list of expenses??

  2. Anonymous says:

    You could send one of your senior reporters over to George Hecht’s office to squeeze the requested info out of him for a lot less money and effort…

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m holding my breath…oh, wait, that is what I have to do when I’m IN Oregon Hall. Still waiting for someone to help us over here…

  4. Anonymous says:

    Dog says to holding breath

    have their been environmental samples taken of the air
    in Oregon Hall – that’s a necessary first step toward
    remediation. If there have and have been reported and there
    has been no admin action, talk to a lawyer – I would be happy
    to recommend some names.

    • Anonymous says:

      Tests are inconclusive…OSHA not testing for the right thing…people still sick when in the building…yes, we would like names of lawyers

    • Anonymous says:

      What would you like OSHA to test for that they haven’t yet?

    • Anonymous says:

      Mold. I think OSHA should test for Mold. However, even if they do, there are no federal or state standards. According to Environmental Services the mold found in Oregon Hall “cannot make people sick.” I find this hard to believe. If anyone knows of a good attorney, I’m ready to discuss this issue with a lawyer.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ceiling tiles are fiberglass…can see it snowing in the right light.

    • Anonymous says:

      Many of us can smell the mold and point to places within the building where we smell it – “dirty sock”

    • Anonymous says:

      Dog says

      1. Tests are only inconclusive when the signal is weak, in which case, the environment is probably within tolerance specs.
      Of course, this assumes a full suite of proper measurements (including air flow) has been made.

      2. Yes, mold is very much a gray area in terms of measurements, standards, and the law

      3. Lawyers

      To start with Slinde Nelson Stanford (offices in Portland) handle mold in businesses

      I will contact by lawyer beer network for individual names and let you know.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dog notes

      Kelly Vance (kellyvancelaw.com) specializes in toxic mold but has been * DIS-RECOMMENDED* by two dog beer drinking buddy lawyer sources and you can’t get more impeccable sources than that.

    • Old Man says:

      Perhaps Oregon Hall is air conditioned in the same energy-saving manner as Klamath Hall — by blowing incoming air across a pool of water. A big PLUS in my retirement was the opportunity to move out of that air system into a building with locally controlled AC plus windows that opened.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been in Oregon Hall many times over the years and I didn’t find the air quality there to be bad like it often is on a hot summer day on the upper floors of PLC. Though, IIRC, most/all of the Oregon Hall office windows cannot be opened while PLC residents can open their windows. Not much A/C in PLC.

    • Anonymous says:

      The windows in Oregon Hall do not open, air is recycled (so if someone sneezes in one office, those germs get circulated throughtout the building, gross? I think so) and the filters are not changed on a regular basis. Then there is constant construction and asbestos removal as well, all of these factors affect the air quality in the builidng. I believe that there are many buildings on campus that have air quality issues, I do not believe this is only an issue for employees of Oregon Hall.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hey, Dog, are you going to be at the Oregon Hall Meeting in Willamette Hall? I think your insight would be helpful…

    • Anonymous says:

      Dog says

      well no one invites dogs let alone expect insight from dogs, so this sounds like a setup to me …

      besides Willamette Hall has way too much hot air in it for this dog but this dog does find it confusing that meeting in hot air helps clarify the situation with respect to moldy air.

      Below are the minutes from a May 17, 2012 meeting:

      “Kay (Coots) advised the UO responded to OSHA with no findings on the Oregon Hall air quality complaint that was received earlier this year. An OSHA investigation is now underway.”

      I guess someone should find out where the OSHA investigation is, at this point.

      Most of the people at that meeting are given below:

      Carl Abeyta, Kay Coots, David Flock, Cheryl Henderson, Linda King, Gary Malone, Deb Pack, Dana Peterson, Ernie Pressman, Michael Smith, Diana Sobczynski, Hannah Vasey-Vehrs, Michelle Wygle Guest: Linda King

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah – bring out the big Dog! No more bullshit!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Smells like Closed (Sick) Building Syndrome:


    Maybe it will take a few Legionaire’s Disease fatalities to get some action from our highly paid Johnson Hall execs:


    Some Oregon Hall residents may be allergic to certain types of mold
    that are considered harmless and wouldn’t otherwise bother most

  8. Anonymous says:

    It would be interesting to know how much outside fresh air is brought in and mixed with recirculated air. If enough outside fresh air is brought in and the building is slightly over pressurized, then that would help purge some of the stale air, including noxious gasses from the out gassing humans, building materials, furniture, etc and particles from mold, asbestos, etc. But the more outside fresh air the higher the energy costs to bring it to the desired building air temperature, particularly during the summer and winter months. Thus there’s probably a tendency to minimize bringing in outside fresh air to save $$$. To the detriment of the building inhabitants.

    Sort of like the airlines: They keep reducing the outside fresh air injected into the airplane cabins as it comes from the engine bleed air systems. The more bleed air used for the cabins the more fuel the engines burn. Not good for airline profits, executive bonuses, etc.

    • uomatters says:

      Interesting. I’m guessing the air in the Jock Box across Agate is treated with a bit more care.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dog again says

      yes airflow and recirculation mix are all things that can be measured. I am not sure $$$ are a problem – I think its just all this legacy HVAC shit we have around here . Simply having windows that open is the simplest fix to many of these problems.

      I can loan out my M18/T15 recoilles rifle if anyone wants
      to make some window openings …

    • Anonymous says:

      Dog…I agree with you, why can’t we have windows that open? I encourage everyone who works in Oregon Hall to go to one of the meetings, even if you are not directly affected, I bet you know a coworker, a friend who has been. I understand that mold affects some, not all. But, on behalf of all who work in OH…GO! United we stand. I realize that is a bit of a cliche, but, hey that is all I got. Still Holding my Breath.

    • Anonymous says:

      Mold can make people sick, but mobs can also rule. Hopefully the solution to this problem will be based on facts.

    • uomatters says:

      Boy do I agree, that’s why the difficulty getting any out of the PR office is so troubling.

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t forget that saving energy is not all about saving $$$. Some people here care about more than one type of “green”.

  9. Fran says:

    Did OSHA do air quality testing when the building was empty or jam packed w students?
    If they did not take samples from the recycled venting filters & ductwork, they need to as well.

    I once worked in a building where a certain pocket of people kept getting pneumonia.
    They were fine when not in the building, but got sick again when in the building.
    Work officials said… shut up & go back to work.
    OSHA came & tested & found black mold in the ductwork.
    Furthermore, there would be hefty daily fines until the problem was resolved.

    Don’t know whatever became of employees who had to deal with medical costs of pneumonia….
    but later the company moved it’s operations to India.

    • Anonymous says:

      Curious…How many sick hours have been used by Oregon Hall employees compared to the rest of the campus, compared to other OUS employees. Just a thinking.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Should get PLC tested too. I’ve seen people put box fans out in the PLC hallways to move the hot stagnant summer air along…

  11. Old Man says:

    The worst can happen. The chemical hoods in Klamath Hall discharge air continuously, which is OK. However, when the building was designed, someone was shocked at the waste of cooled/warmed air that would result. So they designed the system to recirculate that air back into the building. The only reason any K-Hall scientists are alive today is because someone caught the blunder. Ir was rectified by ducting the hoods through the elevator shaft. And you wondered why K-Hall has no elevator!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I hope everyone makes it to one of the meetings tomorrow in Willamette.

    • Anonymous says:

      poor planning – entire departments are in staff meetings at this time

  13. Anonymous says:

    What did you think of the meeting?

  14. Anonymous says:

    lots of information no accountability on the part of administration george hecht “checked out” the whole meeting and left at 10:30 before folks were finished and did not address thet group OSHA says no mold, but acknowledged frusrated employees who state they are sick only at work in OR Hall. Sounds like they are throwing money at the HVAC system that is not the problem.

    • Anonymous says:

      I heard through the grapevine that the people who know say that the problem is fiberglass on the inside of the ceiling tiles that is part of the duct system – not the newly painted side we see when we look up. Evidently, Kay Coots has been covering that up for years.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why the coverup? Replacing ceiling tiles isn’t that expensive – although “ceiling tiles that is part of the duct system” doesn’t make sense.

      But at least we’ve eliminated mold – or have we?

    • Anonymous says:

      Dog on Fiberglass

      The described symptoms here seem inconsistent with fiberglass “dust” in the HVAC system. One of the strongest warnings is
      eye irritation (the little glass dust gets in your eyes and is strongly irritating) and I haven’t seen that discussed here.

      Here is a good brief document from UCSB environmental health and safety office on fiberglass related HVAC health issues:


    • Anonymous says:

      “Fiberglass, at a minimum, is an acute physical irritant to the skin, eyes, and upper respiratory tract.”

      Oh yeah!! Daily!! Not at home, or outside at lunch!!

    • Anonymous says:

      The outside contractors who cleaned the ducts told employees in OR Hall they found mold. Record of their work would be in the costly records request.

    • Anonymous says:

      OSHA’s systematic tests would trump the comments of some guys wiping down the HVAC system.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Seems like the records request is of public interest now…Thanks Pete! Come on PRO – give up the public records! The whole $600 worth!

    • Anonymous says:

      Let’s see how much tax payer $ was wasted before they admitted something is wrong.

    • Anonymous says:

      They’ve had two different tests come up with nothing. It’s not even clear that something is wrong.

    • Anonymous says:

      You come sit in Oregon Hall for 2 weeks for 40 hours a week and see if you get sick. Prove us wrong!

    • Anonymous says:

      That wouldn’t prove you wrong. It would only show that someone could be in Oregon Hall for 80 hours and not get sick (which I’m sure has already been proven). I doubt that would appease you. But clearly if there is a problem, it isn’t easily detected (like fiberglass, mold, or the other things proposed here).