This year, the residents of Boone 4 were confronted head-on with the “mold menace.”
The problems started when the parents of a resident of the Geneva Boone House 4 put in a complaint to Residence Life and the Physical Plant about a “moldy” smell in Boone 4 and allergy-like symptoms.
According to Assistant Vice President of Campus Operations Derek Thornton, “[my team and I] went to the house because of a phone call received from a parent. I needed to find out for myself about that specific issue.” Thornton added that once he went to Boone 4 he found evidence of extensive “water infiltration” in the mechanical closet.
Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator Polly Miller was also called in to check the house, and said, “when I saw inside the mechanical closet I knew there was a problem.” Miller also took air and swab samples of the affected area, all of which came back positive for multiple species of mold.
Director of Residence Life Joanne Goldwater, who was first contacted about the mold and made the decision to evacuate students from the townhouse, said “mold is a constant issue everywhere on campus, in everyone’s homes, not just at St. Mary’s.”
Mold is not a new problem on campus either; it was found in the Prince George dorm earlier in the year, and small amounts of mold were also found in three other townhouses on the Boone block. However, Miller said that those problems were small enough to be handled by housekeeping.
Miller stressed the ubiquity and tenacity of mold growth, and said, “all it takes for mold to grow is moisture…if [a leak] is not stopped and [the area] not cleared in 24 to 48 hours mold can grow.” She further added that mold can grow on “pretty much anything if it has the nutrients it needs” and that long-term exposure to some forms of mold, especially the aspergillus genus of mold species, have been linked to pulmonary disease and cancer.
In order to combat the mold, Thornton and his team has been working extensively to eradicate the problem areas and clean out the townhouse. According to Thornton his team has already, among other things, removed the affected drywall and cleaned out the remainder of the mechanical closet.
At the time of this writing, Miller said that the affected room in Boone 4 was also going to be “under containment” over the weekend, while a third-party abatement team came to clean up the remaining affected areas.
Thornton said that, “my team has taken the initiative to go into all the townhouses. We want to be proactive about checking mechanical closets [for mold].”
He added, “because of what we’ve found we’ve stepped up the process.” Thornton also said that if a student suspects their living area is infested with mold that he or she should let maintenance know immediately. Goldwater said, “don’t wait until it [the problem] gets astronomically gross”.