By Catalina Righter
With the humid Maryland summer persisting, students are once again having problems with mold in their residence halls.
Mold spores are present in the air all the time, but require water to grow on surfaces. The problem for WC is “typically high humidity, which then can condense on colder surfaces like walls or air conditioners, which can result in mold growth,” said Reid Raudenbush, director of Physical Plant. Some Harford rooms reached humidity levels up to 90 percent said Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Carl Crowe.
Active mold growths can lead to unsightly discoloration and smell on the surfaces they inhabit, as well as health problems for inhabitants of the affected area. According to The Center for Disease Control website, “In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition.”
No “toxic” varieties of mold have been found present on campus, according to Crowe. However, regular mold growth can still be hazarous to pulmonary health, especially for students weakened by sickness and allergies. “If [students] feel like they are having a medical reaction to mold, they should go to health services as soon as they can,” he said. Those students who suspect mold growth should contact Buildings and Grounds directly as well as email him. Students who wish to be moved into different housing because of mold sensitivity should contact David Stuebing, an assistant director of residence life.
Raudenbush said that once Buildings and Grounds receives a report of mold growth, a worker is dispatched. They treat the affected surfaces with a disinfectant solution called 40-80. “It is completely safe. In almost all cases, a good wipedown solves most outbreaks.”
Mold is not a new issue for WC student residents or The Elm student newspaper. Articles about mold problems in Minta Martin and the Western Shore were published in 2012 and 2013 in The Elm. “There have been some issues from time to time, in every building on campus, not just the residential buildings,” said Crowe.
Raudenbush said, “Up until this year, there was really only one place where we consistently had problems, which was the Western Shore,” though there have been some instances of growth in the Minta Martin and Caroline dormitories.
During the summers of 2013 and 2104, each of the 11 living spaces in the Western Shore were taken offline for student residents and completely renovated to discourage mold growth. “We completely repainted them with a mold-resistant paint, took all of the carpet out of them, and tiled them, which is more hygienic,” said Raudenbush. “In addition, we permanently installed a commercial dehumidifier in every suite, which runs constantly.”
For students living in a Western shore dorm or another unit with a dehumidifier, Raudenbush said, “It is important to keep windows closed and not block the [dehumidifiers] so the units can continue to get good airflow.”
This year, it is the Harford dormitories that had the most widespread problems, with mold growing visibly on walls and furniture. Sophomore Keita Christophe said, “Right above my bed, I had a chunk of mold. The cleaning ladies wiped it with a washcloth covered in disinfectant, but said they wouldn’t really fix it until fall break.”
The mold in Harford is a more recent problem, Raudenbush said. The Easton-based firm, Gipe Engineering, was hired to inspect the building. A report on the findings along with solutions and cost estimates will be available in a couple of weeks.
Gipe Engineering “designed the mechanical systems for a lot of the existing buildings on campus, such as the library. We had brought them in to look at the Western shore and a lot of their recommendations are things that we’ve done to minimize mold growth,” said Raudenbush.
In addition, Crowe said that “we had to pull some furniture [from the Harford dormitories] because of an unpleasant smell. I have ordered new furniture, which should be arriving Oct. 6.”
Earlier in the year, a campus wide email was sent out asking for the return of dehumidifiers. The all-call worked. “We currently have enough dehumidifiers to have placed them wherever we need them,” said Raudenbush. Dehumidifiers are often placed in dorms for temporary problems and not returned. Students and Staff who call Buildings and Grounds to return the dehumidifiers “allowed us to employ them to Harford especially, where we have up to four and five in a suite,” said Raudenbush.
Lower humidity levels and a constant temperature are the key to eliminating problems. “It should be lower, but usually when you get below an RH of 60 percent you will not see mold growth,” said Raudenbush.
Suspected mold problems can be reported to Buildings and Grounds using the Maintenance Request System located on the Current Students menu of the WC website or reported to the RA of the building.
Residence Life should be contacted after Buildings and Grounds. Carl Crowe can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 410-778-7235. For students wishing to change residences due to health issues related to mold, David Stuebing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-810-5780.