Faculty and staff in four mold-infested buildings at Georgia Southern University are breathing easier as university officials complete cleanup and try to prevent future problems. Student Health Services Director Lynn Tabor pointed up at the rusty heating and air conditioning fan coil unit above his office doorway and described how it was cleaned out and all of the wallpaper around it removed and replaced with mold-resistant paint. The office and storage rooms adjacent to his received the same treatment. Most of the mold was concentrated in a storage closet where a case of sodas had burst.
A six-foot section of wall and all of the carpet was removed and replaced. Tabor said he is satisfied with the clean-up effort. “We’ve got very good support from our physical plant division,” Tabor said. “And I know they’re looking at other things to do to address the problem.” Common indoor molds — cladosporium, penicillium, and aspergillus — and the toxic mold stachybotrys were found growing in Health Services, Communication Arts, Williams Center and Anderson Hall this summer. The university tested for mold following complaints about illness caused by mold exposure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, molds typically cause nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, or wheezing among people who are mold-sensitive. People with serious allergies can have more severe reactions, including infection. Stachybotrys produces toxins and has caused hemorrhaging in rare cases involving people who were taking immune suppression drugs, or were exposed to the mold through a puncture wound or in massive amounts. The Health Center, where Tabor’s office and the student health clinic are located, contained stachybotrys and cladosporium. “The two buildings that required the most work were health services and communication arts,” said university Spokesman Michael Sullivan. Georgia Southern’s Communication Arts building contained cladosporium, stachybotrys, penicillium and aspergillus molds.
More than a decade old, the classroom and office building is a temporary portable that is prone to moisture leaks through its aging roof. The building’s ceiling tiles were spotted and stained brown with mold and moisture. The worst of it was concentrated in a theater room called the black box. But all of the moldy ceiling tiles have been removed or replaced and workers were atop the building Wednesday making preparations for a roof replacement. “Every ceiling tile in this building is new and we anticipate having a new roof by the end of the month,” Sullivan said. “Building a permanent replacement for the building is on the top of the university’s priority list, but the project didn’t make the Board of Regent’s wish list.
We hope to get on the list next year.” Most of the work in the two other buildings required only extensive cleanup with bleach and water, Sullivan said. The Williams Center, which houses the student newspaper, contained cladosporium, stachybotrys, penicillium and aspergillus. Anderson Hall, an original campus building built in 1907, had penicillium, aspergillus and stachybotrys molds as well as a problem with fleas and insect fragments.This facility houses administrative offices with window air-conditioning units that might have allowed moisture and insects inside. Now that the mold is cleaned up, the university is working to stop the moisture problems that could generate new mold. But that’s not an easy task. Molds are always present in the environment to some degree and in humid climates, the constant moisture helps them flourish.
Physical plant staff is trying to engineer a way to reduce an ongoing humidity and condensation problem with the Health Center’s heating and air system. Pipes carry hot and cold water through the building’s ceiling to fan coil units that blow hot and cold air. Insulation and condensation problems with the pipes generate moisture, especially in the summer months. “It’s a constant struggle,” said Tabor. But Sullivan said the staff plans to prevail. “We are hoping at this point everything is fine,” he said. “If it is not, we’ll go back and address whatever continuing problems there are.”
Note: Cholorax has been proven to be ineffective in mold removal. It bleaches out the color, but leaves the actual mold.
Written by Jenel Few, Savannah Morning News