Mold Outbreak Plagues Dormitories
Published: Friday, September 27, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 27, 2013 02:09
There have been 21 cases of mold in dormitories and apartments this semester reported to the Office of Facilities, which in some instances resulted in student illness.
Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management Robin Morey said the vast majority of incidents reported have been minor, meaning students are expected to deal with them on their own. Students and Facilities dispute the responsiveness of maintenance workers to more serious situations.
Most of the mold concerns have occurred in Henle Village, where heating, ventilation and air conditioning units often do not operate properly in humid conditions. Four dehumidifiers have been installed in Henle to address the problem.
“The ways you clean mold are really just detergent and water for the smaller jobs, and if you read the [Environmental Protection Agency] website, you can do that yourself,” Morey said.
What Facilities sees as a minor mold problem is often daunting to students unfamiliar with home care. A common complaint among students has been a slow response time — or none at all — to requests for assistance with mold problems.
Haley Lepp (SFS ’15) noticed mold in the bathroom of her apartment in Alumni Square when she moved in over the summer. After submitting multiple work orders and failing to receive a response, Lepp attempted to clean the mold alone.
“I actually tried to clean it myself, which didn’t work, and I ended up getting kind of sick,” Lepp said. “I was somewhat nauseous and weak for a while afterwards.”
When told of students who had fallen ill due to the mold cleanup, Morey replied,
“Certainly we didn’t instruct them to clean anything. I don’t know if it was mold. I don’t know what they did.”
Lepp said she felt compelled to clean it herself when Facilities never addressed the problem.
“It was two or three weeks, and I had sent all of these work orders,” she said. “We are living with mold. This is disgusting.”
Alex Vicas (COL ’16) noticed mold in his Henle apartment upon moving in. The worst of it was concentrated in the bathroom with some in the apartment’s air vents. Vicas and his roommates called Facilities twice about their mold outbreak.
“The combined amount of time that [Facilities] was there was about eight minutes for both times,” Vicas said. “They set up a dehumidifier in our hallway, but there’s not a noticeable difference. We just put in another work order.”
Claire Hines (COL ’14) also had medical issues when confronted with mold in her dorm. Hines broke out in hives as a result of the growth in her room in LXR last fall. After visiting the Student Health Center on campus, she received a doctor’s note asking that either the mold problem be addressed or that a room change take place.
“I talked to my residence hall director, and I was told … that a lot of places on campus have mold, so moving me wouldn’t necessarily help, which seems like not a great response to the issue,” Hines said.
Shreya Sarkar (COL ’15), who shares an apartment with Lepp, is also concerned with the way in which the school has been reacting to the mold issue.
“It’s a safety hazard,” Sarkar said. “It’s a health hazard, more than anything.”
Although Henle is the school’s biggest problem area in terms of mold, there has yet to be a large-scale project in that location designed to rid the apartments of growth like the one to install dehumidifiers in Village A during the summer. The office is currently considering a project of the same magnitude.
The number of reported cases last year went unrecorded. Serious cases can require anywhere from one to three days’ work to remove, which sometimes involves relocating residents.
Due to the comparatively low volume of mold cases reported in LXR and Alumni Square, Facilities has no plans to place dehumidifiers or install any measure of mold prevention there. Such plans would require additional engineering analysis. Morey said that Facilities has been working to respond immediately to all reports of mold in any building used for campus housing.
“We respond the same day we get the call. I know that there were numerous instances in the Henle Village where the people had moved in the same day, this was move-in weekend, and we responded and actually moved them out and did the remediation,” Morey said. “It is important how we respond.”