Mold found in West Campus apartments

Kaitlin Eastin | Contributing Writer | Oct. 9, 2019

Water damage inside the wall at West Campus apartment 2002 on Aug. 27
Photo courtesy of Kacie Mercado

The alarming presence of mold, discovered in two West Campus Village 2 apartments, forced GC to relocate six residents and start immediate renovations in late August.

“The mold was an additional concern on top of the water intrusion into the building,” said Shea Groebner, assistant director of Facilities Operations for Environmental Health and Safety and Fire Safety. “Once the water was stopped from entering the building and the remediation was completed, the mold would no longer be active in the space.” 

GC decided against sending samples of the mold for lab identification. However, the school spent approximately $18,100 on external mold remediation, demolition and reconstruction of affected apartments. 

“We take the safety of our students very seriously,” said Susan C. Allen, vice president of Finance and Administration. “We will do whatever it takes to make sure the students are safe.” 

The discovery occurred after residents made  repeated complaints of an intense smell of moisture in the Village Apartment 2002, GC investigated and found that water damages within the walls created a hospitable environment for mold growth.  The water damage also posed a potential risk to the buildings foundation. 

“Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can lead to symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes, or skin,” according to the  Centers for Disease Control. “Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings… severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath.”

Initial investigations of the apartments’ water pipes and HVAC systems revealed no sign of  mold or water entry. Residents of the Village Apartment 2002 were informed the smell arose from the carpet; the carpet was professionally cleaned, but the smell of moisture strengthened.

“It made the smell worse because the moisture was in the walls,” said Kacie Mercado, resident B of apartment 2002. “They were further wetting it and growing the mold. They moved all of my stuff into the living room and I would sleep with my roommates or on the couch because it smelt so bad.” 

Upon further investigation, Groebner discovered the formation of water pools along the exterior wall of Village 2. These pools were responsible for funneling water into the interior walls, creating necessary conditions for mold growth. 

An intense concentration of mold spores was discovered in a closet’s ceiling above the unit’s air handler. Within the walls, visible water damage had turned the wood black.  

These findings intensified GC’s concern for both the health of its students and its facilities. 

“Within a week we had identified a problem, established a plan, and taken some precautions to eliminate the problem that was occurring,” said Groebner. 

GC Housing relocated residents into two-bedroom apartments on Aug. 20 and began renovations on the mold-infected apartment on Aug. 21.

“I came home after classes and my whole room was filled with fans and everything was bubble wrapped,” said Madison Gasque, resident A of Apartment 2002. 

Effected Sheetrock and carpeting were removed. An outside company, ServPro, launched a full-scale mold maintenance process to disinfect the apartment of remaining mold. 

Although at the discretion of the residents, GC highly encouraged the laundering and airing of personal items exposed to the emissions of apartment 2002.   

“I had to get all of my items dry-cleaned and use mold spray,” Mercado said. “I had to clean everything that I had.”

Three of the affected residents were granted prorated reimbursements by GC and released from their Village Apartments leases by Sept. 9.