SEAFORD, N.Y. (CBSNew York) — Many flood-damaged homes have become infested with toxic mold in the months since Superstorm Sandy hit.
Some of the houses have been rendered unlivable due to the mold and Sen. Charles Schumer said the federal government does not do enough to help those displaced homeowners.
In Seaford on Long Island, Larry Elliot’s home of 30 years was condemned due to toxic mold.
“The sheet rock was removed a while back. That took care of some of the mold but the rest has to be treated,” Elliot told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall.
“I’m stuck without a home is what it amounts to,” Elliot told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
Schumer is pushing for passage of a bill due to come up in the House next week that would provide money for mold removal.
“Many houses that were flooded have mold and unfortunately, existing law, FEMA law, does not allow remediation of mold anywhere above the water line. And anyone who knows about mold can tell you when you get it in one place, it’s going to spread to the other,” Schumer said. “It can cause respiratory infection, nasal and sinus congestion, eye irritation, throat irritation, headaches, mood changes — even mood changes.”
Schumer is calling on the federal government to update the regulations so that homes flooded by Sandy can get expensive mold remediation included in FEMA relief.
“It’s as if you went to the hospital with two broken arms and they said ‘we can fix your left arm but not your right arm,'” Schumer said.
Schumer said without the additional funds, homeowners are left to pay thousands of dollars to get rid of the mold.
The cost of mold remediation alone could cost $1 billion, Gusoff reported.
Elliot said he is concerned about the mold that is covering the walls, electrical sockets and other surfaces in his home.
“It would be very dangerous, it would be a health risk,” he told Hall.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said he’s hopeful the change to the FEMA mold rule will come quickly.
“In order to avoid sick homes in the future, it’s imperative that mold mitigation begins before the major reconstruction takes place in these homes,” said Mangano.
Schumer also revealed the extent of the damage on Long Island.
“We estimate that the number of structures that’s destroyed or hurt badly on Long Island alone is about 90,000. The guess is that between New York and New Jersey, there are over 300,000 structures that have serious damage,” he told Hall.
According to new FEMA numbers:
- 10 percent of Long Island homes were damaged
- More than 38,000 homes were more than half destroyed
- 182 homes were complete losses
- More than 4 million yards of debris were left strewn across Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
Officials also announced Tuesday that the highest storm surge on Long Island was in the city of Long Beach and registered 17 and a half feet.
“It’s obviously horrible. And every one of us knows our home is our castle. I was away because of the ‘fiscal cliff,’ the one thing I wanted to do was just sit in my chair and home and sleep in my bed at home and that’s a wish that most people have when they’re away or can’t be in their homes. And, therefore, giving people back their homes is so vital,” Schumer said.
Also Tuesday, Nassau County officials announced Sandy-related expenses are expected to cost the county $213 million.
Budget officials said they anticipate FEMA will reimburse 75 percent of the costs for police overtime, debris removal and other storm-related expenses.
Last week, House Speaker John Boehner announced a vote on $51 billion in federal Sandy aid is set for Jan. 15. A $9.7 billion flood insurance claims measure was signed into law over the weekend, marking the first round of Congressionally approved federal aid for Sandy.