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A note on Washington College’s mold response:

August 16, 2019

Since mold exists everywhere, particularly in areas like ours that have warm, humid summers, colleges are accustomed to responding to mold and utilizing a range of strategies to address remediation and long-term prevention. We take this seriously at Washington College because the presence of mold in residence halls can impact student health in some instances. The Center for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency provide information on mold and its impact.

In indoor environments, mold growth is natural. People typically assume any mold is “black mold,” Stachybotrys chartarum. However, there are hundreds of varieties, many found indoors and most of which are not “black mold.” The CDC does not recommend routine sampling of molds and advises that it is not generally necessary to identify the species of mold.

We try very hard to keep mold from growing in all of our facilities. However, when rooms are left vacant and closed up, as residence hall rooms often are just before move-in, the air can stagnate, and condensation can form. Mold needs moisture in order to grow, and these conditions can allow mold spores, which are present in outside air that is brought inside as part of the building’s air conditioning, to grow.

Every year, we receive a handful reports from students and Resident Assistants (RAs) about mold in residence halls. RAs are instructed to report any signs or reports of mold promptly. The Area Coordinators then inspect the rooms personally and alert Buildings and Grounds. Students are alerted and updated via email to expect staff entering rooms and inspecting the buildings in addition to instructions to help with humidity control. Last year, the student newspaper, The Elm, even assisted by running a helpful article that included information on the situation, tips for addressing mold in regular room cleanings, as well as reporting options for students.

When mold is reported in a student room, Buildings and Grounds staff respond to, inspect, and assess the level of response needed. A thorough cleaning of bleach and water can remove most mold. It is good to be aware, however, that even after cleaning, some stains may remain after the mold is killed by the bleach. It does not mean that there is still mold there.

Washington College’s response includes not only cleaning the mold itself but also assessing for a possible source of additional moisture such as a pipe leaking or sweating excessively or if an AC unit is not being used or is not performing properly. Any rooms exhibiting more than a small amount are assessed by a remediation company to ascertain if the mold is beyond the surface and for any moisture sources. Based upon the results of their inspections, the room may be further remediated by addressing the source of the moisture.

After a room has been addressed, the College has the air quality tested by an outside contractor. If a hall exhibits a pattern of mold, the College then utilizes a contractor to assess the residence hall’s systems, layout, and humidity control challenges. At the present time, to address the situation in Minta quickly, we were advised to turn the heat on while still having the AC units in the windows. The heating system dries out the indoor air with the AC units providing cooling and, when set properly, also dehumidifies. This strategy has quickly and effectively lowered the humidity levels in Minta with minimal disruption to the residents.

 We ask that students with concerns notify their RA or the Area Coordinator immediately so we can assess and address any instances of possible mold as quickly as possible.