Lead Contamination Found in Iowa State Office Building

November 12, 2014

Testing has identified lead dust contamination on the first two levels of the Wallace State Office Building in Des Moines, which houses 495 state employees.

The Des Moines Register reported Saturday that it learned of the contamination through a state Department of Natural Resources memo it obtained. The memo was dated Oct. 29 and addressed to department director Chuck Gipp.

The department confirmed that the highest contamination levels were found in and around a former indoor shooting range on the second floor, which had been used by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

State officials do not believe the contamination poses an immediate health threat to employees who work in the building, said Caleb Hunter, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, which oversees state buildings.

No decisions will be made about addressing the lead issue until formal testing is completed by an engineering and consulting company hired by state officials last month, Hunter said. The firm is still in the process of testing, he said.

“We understand that there are concerns, and we are going to get an official perspective on that,” Hunter said.

The building, erected in 1978, has been plagued with structural and mechanical problems for decades.

Many state employees who work there have said they suffer from “sick-building syndrome,” and complain of headaches, sore throats, nausea and other ailments. The building has also had mold and plumbing problems and has been described as too noisy, with some areas lacking privacy.

Gov. Terry Branstad vetoed plans by state lawmakers last year to reconstruct the Wallace Building at an estimated cost of $40 million to $50 million.

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