PEPPERELL – The weeds around the vinyl-sided house are knee-high.
A badly worn wooden swing-set stands in the back yard, surrounded by soda cans and other wind-blown trash.
At first glance, there are no obvious signs that toxic mold runs rampant inside the Davis family’s deserted ranch home at 20 Shawnee Road .
But Nancy Davis, armed with a battery of previous test results, assures that 15 species of mold live in the basement, attic and probably the walls.
Yesterday, she commissioned another series of tests to warn potential buyers of the danger before the house is auctioned off on Sept. 8.
The Davises fell behind on payments and lost the home to lender Fannie Mae, who recently foreclosed on their $227,000 loan.
Nancy Davis, husband Rick, and 6-year-old son Cameron lost all of their possessions (contaminated with mold) and moved out of the home last December because Nancy developed a debilitating case of asthma she attributes to the mold. They are presently renting an apartment a few block away.
“Looking at the attic alone, that’s probably as bad as it gets,” mold expert Steven Goselin said as he emerged from the house after a 90- minute testing session, taking off a full-body, powder-white protective suit and mask.
“The attic is just loaded with black mold,” he said. “It looks like the walls were burnt and caught fire.”
Goselin was there to help the Davises , who initially discovered mold in their small home during a routine energy audit last year.
Goselin , of Envirotech Clean Air, a remediation company, assisted microbiologist Deborah Gordon as she collected air samples.
Goslin and Gordon worked for free yesterday.
“So many of these people don’t have the money (for testing and remediation costs),” Envirotech President Daniel Greenblatt said. “We wanted to help.”
The house was previously tested in November 2003, but the family wanted fresh results before it is sold.
“At an auction, you can’t go inside and see what you are purchasing,” Nancy Davis said. “I want to make sure it is sold as a tear-down.”
Despite the hefty debt, the thought of someone living in her home again weighs heavily on Nancy Davis’ mind.
“A baby could die in there,” she said, as she watched Goselin and Gordon converse at the front door.
Gordon, who also wore a protective suit, gloves, and mask, used a vacuum to take samples of airborne mold spores in the attic, walls and bathroom.
She expects results in about five to seven days, and said the tests usually cost about $1,800.
Nancy Davis, who is active in several mold-awareness endeavors, has plans to distribute test results and invite the media to the September auction.
The Davises also filed a lawsuit against two real-estate agents and a home inspector for allegedly failing to disclose mold conditions in the home. No trial has been set. The Davises feel they are entitled to triple damages, or three times the cost of the home.
“They knew,”she said.
Cleaning and eradicating mold from the house was never an option because it would be too expensive.
Godelin estimated that total remediation would cost the Davises between $40,000 to $60,000 .
“But there is still the stigma of mold that once lived there,” he said.
And that notion will never escape Nancy Davis, who coughed and reached for an inhaler as she described how she feels around mold.
“Just mentioning it makes you shake,” she said. “The hair goes up on the back of my neck.”