Students and staff call for increased attention to mold prevention in campus residences

The vents in a Southern Village apartment were filled with mold. Tuesday, September 14, 2021.
The vents in a Southern Village apartment were filled with mold. Tuesday, September 14, 2021.

Mold has been especially problematic during the past two years in campus residences, according to Marty Hamilton, Financial Administration associate vice president. 

This semester, Southern Village has had two major mold issues, which resulted in students being temporarily relocated to different apartments. Apartments in Spalding Cove and Winding Creek have also been affected. 

In an interview with the Southern Accent, Hamilton explained what Plant Services has done to combat the issue. 

Two years ago, Plant Services had installed a dehumidification system in Thatcher Hall in order to avoid mold-inducing humidity, according to Hamilton. This summer, Plant Services finished installing dehumidification systems in Thatcher South and Talge Hall. Last year, they also installed needle point bipolar ionization systems in all campus buildings. Hamilton said both systems work to prevent mold which he said is a “chronic, inherent problem in the South.” 

According to Hamilton, Plant Services also works with both Housekeeping Services and the deans to keep abreast of the issue. Apartments are inspected whenever students move in or out and deans have recently been checking apartment units for mold on a weekly basis.

In addition to explaining what work Plant Services has done so far, Hamilton called for increased attention to mold from students and staff. 

“We’re doing everything we can to improve the air quality in all of our facilities … but [the equipment is] like anything else. If I throw a bunch of mold at one time, it can’t keep up,” Hamilton said. “Everyone has to be more proactive. … It’s just the way it is.” 

Hamilton encouraged students to deal with mold immediately, whether that means cleaning it with Clorox wipes or notifying an RA about the issue. He also suggested taking preventative steps, such as keeping the AC unit between 72 to 76 degrees year round. Running the AC  cold or turning it off completely increases the risk for mold. 

 “So my message is we need to work together,” Hamilton said. “Students need to realize [and] take some personal responsibility. If you see the mold, let us know. Don’t just let it go.”

Camryn Clark, senior public relations-graphic design major, experienced mold firsthand in her Southern Village apartment this fall semester. A few weeks ago, she and her housemate discovered mold in all the vents in their apartment. 

“We assume that the mold has been there the entire time that we have lived in the apartment,” Clark said. 

After Plant Services investigated the apartment, Clark and her housemates had to move to a different apartment so Plant Services could fix the issue. They are still awaiting the repair of their original apartment. 

“Overall, it has been an unwanted frustration that we have had to deal with in the middle of the semester,” Clark said. “I do wish we were given more of a heads up about having to move. It was stressful to suddenly be given a weekend to uproot all of my belongings.” 

Mile Pinero, senior English literature major, had a similar experience. This semester, Pinero and her housemates had to move out of their apartment in Southern Village after finding black mold behind the dishwasher and in all the vents. Pinero said the entire ventilation system and parts of the walls needed to be replaced

According to Pinero, she and her housemates moved out on September 2 to a different apartment while Plant Services dealt with the mold. She is hoping to move back to the original apartment by next semester. 

“I was very frustrated,” Pinero said about the short-notice move. “We were all very frustrated. But, you know, we were like, ‘Okay God, like, it’s in your hands. It is what it is. At least we’ll not be breathing in mold.’”

When asked about education in regards to the mold issue, Pinero said, “In my experience, I’ve never seen any sort of education or anything, and I know a lot of people that have never dealt with mold. … I know that this is a campus-wide problem, and there should be more awareness about it.”

Housekeeping supervisor for Thatcher Hall Amy DeWind also expressed the need for increased education. 

“I think the biggest thing I want [as] a takeaway from this is it is a lot about education, and everybody understanding what it takes to maintain the living environment,” Dewind said. “And, you know, there’s not one person to blame or anything like that. I don’t want to say that at all. There are many factors to this. … We would never want any of y’all to live in anything that wasn’t safe.” 

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