Students relocated as William Paterson University cleans mold from dorms
Source: https://www.northjersey.com, October 15, 2018
By: Philip DeVencentis
Mold has been detected in a majority of residence halls at William Paterson University, forcing more than three dozen students to relocate to other on-campus units.
Seven of 10 residence halls and two academic buildings have mold, a university spokeswoman said.
The university has not identified those buildings and residence halls by name, but spokeswoman Mary Beth Zeman said 40 students in 25 rooms were offered temporary shelter for up to three days, as the mold was cleaned up. The number of students who opted to remain in their rooms during the process is unknown.
Zeman said the university is paying $2,500 to $7,000 per room to Hawthorne-based Insurance Restoration Specialists Inc. to clean the mold. She said many of the mold incidents were addressed by the university’s custodial staff.
Meanwhile, some students say they are exhibiting allergic and respiratory symptoms because of the mold.
“It’s never been this bad,” said Kasie Sullivan, 21, living for the second straight year at Heritage Hall. “Everyone is talking about it.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mold can cause burning eyes, coughing or wheezing, irritable skin, sore throat and stuffy nose. But for asthma sufferers, reactions can be more severe.
Nicole Kirgan, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, said the agency has fielded recent “informal phone inquiries” from colleges and universities about mold, but that they are not required to report such cases.
“Schools typically hire private consulting firms to evaluate and test for mold,” Kirgan said. “The New Jersey Department of Health does not have oversight.”
Students at the university in Wayne on Friday received an email from a high-ranking university official advising them of a “weather-related issue” and urging them to submit work orders if they detect mold in their rooms.
The email, from Stephen Bolyai, the university’s senior vice president of administration and finance, blamed the mold on “wet weather that has lingered … for weeks.”
Zeman said the first detection of mold this semester was on Sept. 1, a date that roughly coincides with students’ return to campus.
“As a result of the persistent excessively humid weather,” Bolyai’s email said, “we have had occurrences of mold in campus buildings.”
Heritage Hall roommates Ryan Doyle and Alex Evans, both 21, say they have had mold in their dorm since they moved in this semester.
Evans said they first detected a “big patch of mold” on the wall of their living room. That flare-up was addressed, he said, after they filed a work order. A janitor came to their room and sprayed the black spots with disinfectant and soapy water.
But the mold returned.
Evans said they found more on the ceilings of their bedrooms, in their freezer and on a backpack.
“If you look up the definition of ‘remediation,’ it’s to stop or reverse the environmental hazard, but they didn’t stop or reverse anything,” said Doyle, who saw a doctor over the weekend for symptoms he thought were related to the mold.
Evans said his unit is one of the dorms that will be restored by IRS Inc. On Monday, he said he would live at home in Midland Park during the cleanup.
Heritage Hall, a co-ed, six-floor apartment building, can house 250 upperclassmen. Pioneer Hall, which is next door, has the same capacity.
Students who live at Heritage and Pioneer halls pay a room-and-board rate of $4,240 per semester. They are the most expensive dormitories at William Paterson, according to the university’s website.
Zeman said the university’s dormitories range in age from 13 to 58 years old and house a total of 2,200 students.
“We have provided numerous renovations, and we continue to meet high standards for cleanliness and maintenance,” Zeman said. “There have been minor instances of mold through the years that have been successfully remediated by university staff.”
William Paterson is not the only institution that has been affected by a mold outbreak.
At the onset of the school year, mold was reported by at least 15 districts in the state, including in nearby Paterson, Ringwood and West Milford, after one of the hottest and wettest summers on record.
The contamination postponed school openings and had some closed for weeks. Other schools, including one in Clifton, have reported similar issues since then.
Oradell’s municipal building had to shut down for more than a month after mold was found there.
While Doyle and Evans seem to have most of the answers they were looking for at William Paterson, other students say they still have work orders pending.
Among them are Sullivan and one of her roommates, Katie Walker, 22, who took the matter into her own hands: She bought a do-it-yourself kit from The Home Depot to test for mold.
“It’s a Petri dish, and you put gel in it and let it sit,” Walker said. “I can’t imagine it’s going to show up clean.”