October 18, 2013

Students forced out as mold returns

Simon Isham & Olivia Krauth—

A least two students have been forced to live in dorm study lounges in Threlkeld Hall as mold infestations were found in their Miller Hall dorm rooms. Freshmen Ryan Long and Jacob Morris were moved nearly two weeks ago when they found a patch of mold rotting their wardrobe.

“The spent all summer trying to fix up the dorms,” said Long. “I moved into Miller because I thought it was safe to live there, but it wasn’t, and so I spent four hours … rolling our mail carts from Miller to (Threlkeld) with all of our possessions. I had two exams the next day, was up ‘til 2 a.m. studying.

“I’m not holding any grudges, but at the same time, we’ve been living out of trash bags for a week and a half now.”

There are 140 rooms in Miller Hall, 30 of which were identified as affected by the mold. Fifteen had a small level of mold that Hebert said could be washed away with household bleach. Students from the other 15 rooms were temporarily relocated to open rooms in other on-campus housing options, including Louisville Hall.

Mold in each of the affected Miller Hall dorm rooms was found growing on the rooms’ wardrobes, which are made of wood. Hebert said that the wardrobes will be replaced, which will take about ten days. Unaffected wardrobes on the affected second and third floors will be replaced over Christmas break. The remaining wardrobes will be replaced by the start of next year.

“It’s in the old, built-in wooden wardrobes,” said Shannon Staten, director of housing. The new wardrobes will be made of a laminated wood, which is less likely to retain moisture and grow mold.

Since the first week of school, U of L Housing has entered five dorms that have in the past been affected with mold. They visit these dorms weekly for inspection.

According to university spokesperson Mark Hebert, mold was initially found in Miller Hall two weeks ago, but Long and Morris’ room was not initially identified as a problem. Long was told that U of L Housing performed air quality checks, but did not find Long’s room’s mold via this method.

After Long filled out a work order form to have the mold removed, he was told that the room was deemed unsafe. He needed to move out by 3 p.m. that day so the mold could be removed, which U of L Housing told him could be finished as earlier as this coming weekend.

According to Hebert, when mold is reported, U of L Housing staff is first to inspect the problem, followed by trained environmental professionals if deemed necessary.

While Long and Morris appear to be the only two currently living in study lounges, other Threlkeld study lounges housed multiple beds and dressers. One Threlkeld resident that the Cardinal spoke to said that students had resided in the study room at the beginning of the semester, but have since been moved.

According to Long, the students are not being reimbursed for the inconvenience, nor were they offered any help from Housing or Physical Plant in moving their belongings from one dorm to another.

The incident occurs nearly a year after Miller Hall was shut down due to the discovery of mold. The freshman-only dorm was reopened in Jan. 2013 after being deemed mold-free. Heating and air conditioning units were replaced, as was the furniture. Nearly $4 million was spent on the clean-up last year, which led to budget cuts in the housing department. Other dorms were affected as well: similar changes were made in Threlkeld Hall, pipes were rewrapped in Center and Wellness Halls and West Hall was ultimately closed to residents.

“We made a decision that we could really only afford to take care of two of the buildings for what we needed to do to be able to continue to use them as a sleeping facility, and so we did Center and Wellness,” said Staten. “West is fine, and it’s fine to use and be in.”

Last time, displaced students were moved into off-campus dorms and hotels until the mold had been cleaned up.

“I think they should have treated us more like people than just a problem and a number,” said Long.

Ginny Washbish also contributed to this article.

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