Mold in a central Minnesota post office is suspected of sickening two employees, and operations were quickly suspended until the building can be deemed safe, the U.S. Postal Service said Tuesday. The landlord disputes the contention.
The alleged problem at the post office in downtown Bowlus was brought to the attention of the Postal Service's district leadership on Friday after two employees "experienced illness, which their physicians identified as being consistent with symptoms associated with presence of mold," said Postal Service spokeswoman Kristy Anderson.
Safety personnel for the district detected water damage on walls, the ceiling and elsewhere that led to mold forming, Anderson added.
Anderson declined to reveal the nature of the employees' health problems or the severity. Symptoms from mold exposure include sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes, noses and throats, watery eyes and dry skin.
The post office in the town of about 285 residents will be closed while repairs are made.
Meanwhile, services provided there have been moved roughly 6 miles east to Royalton's post office, Anderson said. Bowlus post office patrons will need to show photo identification to collect items in Royalton.
The building on Main Street is leased to the Postal Service and is owned by Arnold Benusa, who was the Bowlus postmaster until 2012, Anderson said.
Benusa challenges the Postal Service's suspicion that mold is to blame for the illnesses.
"Nothing has been proven, not one thing," Benusa said Tuesday. "There is no water damage on the walls, the roof is not leaking and the ceiling is perfect. ... I worked there for 35 years and never had a problem."
Benusa said the Postal Service failed to contact him before the post office was shut down, and the agency is denying him entry to his own building.