East Campus Residents Complain Of Persistent Mold
Written by Abby Rubel
Following a period of rainy, humid weather, some students in East Campus Residence Halls are finding mold in their rooms. The mold not only serves as a major inconvenience but also presents health concerns for students. Sports Editor Abby Rubel tackles the mold issue in this article.
As though having to cook on a hot plate wasn’t enough of a challenge already, some East Campus residents are also dealing with mold staining their walls and ceilings.
Columbia Facilities said in a statement to Bwog that the mold is caused by “high humidity and record-breaking rainfall.” New York State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) guidelines indicate that the mold will not go away until the water does.
“Mold only grows if there is a source of water. Sources of water include leaks from outside, leaks from plumbing, excessive humidity, or floods or sewage backups,” wrote DOHMH assistant press secretary Stephanie Buhle in an email to Bwog. “If mold recurs, that indicates that the water problem has not been fixed.” Until the underlying problem is addressed, she wrote, “the mold will return.”
More rain is forecasted for this weekend, and residents worry that mold in their suites that has been removed will reappear.
“If it stays humid, I think there’s a pretty good chance that [the mold] will [return],” said Columbia College senior Allison Clark.
The mold has been causing health problems in some students. CC senior Kellan Kong said that he had become sick from the mold in his suite.
Buhle noted that symptoms caused by mold are usually limited to “runny nose, itchy eyes, or nasal congestion,” that most people are not affected by mold, and that most effects “go away as soon as the person leaves the moldy area.” The black mold seen in most suites with this problem is not more dangerous than other mold, she continued. But, she wrote, “all indoor mold growth is undesirable, and the problem should be addressed as soon as possible.”
Facilities told Bwog in their statement that they have been responding to instances of mold “as [they] get reported.”
Students in one particular townhouse in EC were moved to temporary housing after the mold in their suite kept returning. Facilities did not indicate that any other residents have been relocated.
In a statement provided to Bwog, Facilities said “We will complete this [mold removal] work as quickly as possible so that students may safely return to their assigned rooms.”
Facilities has been removing the mold following DOHMH guidelines, which indicate that small amounts of mold growing on walls (which the guidelines define as fewer than ten square feet of mold) can be cleaned by “using soap and water and letting the area dry thoroughly,” wrote Buhle.
Kong described what happened when Facilities came to deal with the mold problem in his suite, although he did not know exactly the products used. “From my understanding, they sprayed it with anti mold stuff, they sealed it with prevention stuff, and they painted over it,” he said.
The mold seen in most suites is black in color, which Buhle wrote is “not more dangerous than other colors of mold.”
Clark was not sure how Facilities had addressed the mold in her suite. “The biggest concern that we had was when they had marked the request [to remove the mold] as completed, there weren’t any details about what they had done to address the mold,” she said. “It looked like they had just wiped it off of the area.”
Clark said she believes that the mold in her suite is caused partly by water coming from leaky air conditioner. “As far as we know, there weren’t any repairs of the leaky air conditioning or anything like that,” she said, and her suitemate reports that the air conditioner is still leaking.
Clark was also concerned that Facilities had not fixed “a hole in our roof,” despite marking a maintenance request about the hole as “completed.” “I don’t really know when they’re going to fix that,” she said.
Buhle wrote that students can limit mold growth by “cleaning up liquid spills as soon as possible, not leaving piles of wet clothing or materials, notifying residential facilities quickly if there is visible mold growing on a wall, reducing sources of humidity, and increasing ventilation.”
If multiple rooms in EC keep reporting mold, “certainly we would recommend that the building be checked for leaks and other sources of water,” she wrote.
Photos via Ximena Aparicio and Bwog Staff