Mold at Rowan University / Update on West Virginia mold bill

Mold has been increasingly becoming an issue in Morgantown over the last year, and other areas are experiencing the problem, too.

In Glassboro, N.J., students are upset that mold isn’t being removed fast enough in the student townhouses at Rowan University.

According to the article on myfoxphilly.com, “University officials told students about the mold in this letter last month admitting they knew about the problem since last September.”

Despite knowing about the mold since September, university officials waited six months to alert students. They told the news station that the “problem is bigger than they first thought and they need more people to clean it all up.”

NJ.com says that “A Monroe Township-based environmental consultant has released a report alleging widespread mold contamination throughout the ventilation systems of 109 of the 113 townhouses on Rowan University’s campus.” Of those 113, 70 percent had “heavy to excessive” mold.

Edward Knorr — the principal environmental/health investigator with Quality Environmental Concepts who has been contracted by Rowan for 18 years — said after he performed mold investigations this winter, he advised Rowan officials about the problem and urged them to conduct further evaluations. Knorr said officials refused and banned him from the university.

However, Rowan University spokesman Joe Cardona says they are not ignoring any of these recommendations and are actually following the protocol laid out by Knorr. In addition, no students have reported negative effects from mold at this time, Cardona said.

Knorr said that a student had reported mold on her bedpost. After removal, mold kept returning, leading him to believe that it must have been coming through the heating system. When he looked inside the HVAC, it was coated with mold.

Mold on an HVAC system at the Rowan townhouses. (Photo credit: NJ.com)

So far, 24 units have been cleaned – 10 during winter break and 14 during spring break. Cardona said some things will be left until summer, “but only because it’s not harmful or disturbing students in any way.”

During West Virginia’s legislative session this year, members of West Virginia University’s Student Government Association worked to try to get a bill passed that would make landlords more accountable for removing mold.

House Bill 4425 died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I contacted Earl Hewitt, the SGA’s off-campus housing director who worked on creating the bill with members of WVU’s student legal services and the environmental health and safety staff, to find out what he plans to do next since the bill was not passed.

Hewitt said the next step for him is to get in touch with Sen. Robert D. Beach (D – Monongalia County), in order to build a better relationship with him for next session to get more pull in the senate. He also sent emails to the senators who sat on the subcommittee, and Beach was the only one to respond. He said he wants to be persistent with them to figure out what seemed to be the problems with the bill.

Another step Hewitt plans to take is to set up a meeting with people who were involved over the past year with drafting the bill to find “the best way to attack for next session.”

I did have some more follow-up questions for Hewitt, but he has not yet responded. When/if he does, I’ll be sure to update again.

-Leann

Advertisements

Sunnyside Up could lose 25 percent of funding from city

Morgantown City Council is working on its upcoming fiscal year budget, and Sunnyside Up could lose 25 percent of its funding, according to to WDTV (Some Sunnyside Up Funding on Chopping Block in Upcoming Morgantown Budget).

On Tuesday night, city council approved the first reading of the new fiscal year budget.

According to WDTV, Sunnyside Up would receive the biggest cut in funding. Council voted 4-3 to reallocate that money into savings.

Morgantown City Councilman Bill Byrne does not agree with the decision:

“It’s a great partnership between the university and the city, and every dollar that we put in, the university matches a dollar. So, we take $25,000 out, we basically are cutting not just $25,000 from the program, from the investment in Sunnyside, but $50,000, because the university is likely to match only what we put in, so it’s not a wise financial move,” said Morgantown City Councilman Bill Byrne.

 

Sunnyside Up Executive Director Jim Hunt told WDTV that he’s confident the organization can work through it, and that he hopes council will reconsider the funding.

Morgantown City Council will meet again March 20.

(source: http://www.facebook.com/SunnysideUpWV)

This past weekend, West Virginia University’s Student Government Association and members of the Greek community teamed up with Sunnyside Up to clean up the neighborhood. Approximately 300 students showed up and collected over 150 bags of trash. Read more about the cleanup from the Daily Athenaeum – “Campus organizations take part in community cleanup.”

Sunnyside Up’s board of directors will meet 7:30 a.m. next Wednesday, March 14 at its offices in the Seneca Center.

– Leann

Charleston Daily Mail story talks about mold legislation

If you’ve been keeping up with Inspecting Sunnyside, the issues with mold and bedbugs in Morgantown aren’t new to you.

In today’s Charleston Daily Mail, there’s an article about House Bill 4425, which addresses the issue of mold in rental housing.

The full article is available here – Bill tackles continuing mold issue

According to the article:

The state House of Delegates unanimously passed a bill last week that would require landlords to address mold problems when they are reported. It is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Under normal Senate rules, the bill would have to pass the committee by Wednesday to be voted on by Saturday, the last day of the regular session.

One part of the story that’s a bit disheartening is the writers of the original bill said the current version has been watered down. The amended version no longer allows for a tenant to break his or her lease if the landlord does not address the problem and the home is uninhabitable.

Introduced version:

Committee substitute:

I’ll make sure to keep checking on the status of the bill tomorrow and updating when I can.

– Leann

House Bill 4425 passes the House, communicated to the Senate

House Bill 4425, which would would require landlords in West Virginia to address issues of the accumulation of moisture and the growth of mold, passed the House today and has been communicated to the Senate.

The bill was created by West Virginia University Student Government Association Off-Campus Housing Director Earl Hewitt, Carrie Showalter of WVU Student Legal Services and Nancy Key of Environmental Health & Safety.

Last week, members of the SGA traveled to the Capitol to help push for the bill. (West Virginia University students push for statewide bill on mold regulations)

You can follow the status of the bill here – House Bill 4425.

You can read the bill here – HB 4425 Text.

– Leann

West Virginia University students push for statewide bill on mold regulations

Today’s Daily Athenaeum had a follow-up article on the West Virginia University Student Government Association’s progress on getting legislation passed on mold regulations.

According to the article (“Student orgs advocate for safe housing bill“), more than 30 students from the SGA and Student Advocates for Legislative Advancement traveled to the Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. to push for House Bill 4425.

House Bill 4425 would amend and reenact §37-6-30 of West Virginia State Code. It would require a landlord to “address issues of accumulation of moisture and the growth of mold; and requiring the landlord to perform mold remediation in accordance with professional standards.”

The exact wording to be added if passed would be:

(8) Maintain the premises in such a condition as to prevent the accumulation of moisture and the growth of mold and to promptly respond to any notices from a tenant. When the accumulation of moisture in the dwelling unit materially affects the health or safety of any tenant or authorized occupant, the landlord may require the tenant to temporarily vacate the dwelling unit in order for the landlord to perform mold remediation in accordance with professional standards.

The lead sponsor for House Bill 4255 is Tiffany Elizabeth Lawrence (D-Jefferson). It is also sponsored by Ryan Ferns (D-Ohio), Barbara Evans Fleischauer (D-Monongalia), Tim Miley (D-Harrison) and Jim Morgan, (D-Cabell).

The bill was introduced to the house on February 6, but no other action has been taken yet.

I’m going to keep following up with this bill. Hopefully the WVU students will have an impact on legislators and some action will be taken.

– Leann

The Players: Student Government Association – Part 1

West Virginia University’s Student Government Association is an elected group that “serves as the student’s direct voice to the WVU administration,” according to the group’s website.

The SGA meets 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday in the Mountainlair Hatfields B Room. These meetings are open to students so that they can voice their concerns.

The SGA is comprised of a board of governors and executive officers. Executive officers are in charge of different areas that affect students such as:

  • Student Organizations
  • Off-Campus Housing
  • Greek Liaisons
  • Recruitment and Retention
  • International Student Liaison
  • Diversity
  • Wellness
  • Athletics
  • Neighborhood Associations
  • Residential Affairs
  • Safety
  • Transportation

Obviously the most relevant person to talk to for this blog is the director of off-campus housing, Earl Hewitt. Hewitt is a junior engineering major from Indiana, Pa. He’s also a licensed Real  Estate salesman in Pennsylvania, so he’s very familiar with housing issues.

Last week, I met with Hewitt to discuss what he thinks are some of the biggest issues with off-campus housing.

He said there are two main problems with off-campus student housing in Morgantown:

  1. mold
  2. bed bugs

Let’s talk about mold first – the reason it is such an issue is that there’s no legislature on it here like in other states. Hewitt said only five states have mold-related legislation at this time.

Students want to break leases over mold, he said. But because there’s no legislation, they are having to move home for health reason and still pay rent because their landlords won’t remove the mold. While there’s no link to mold causing diseases, exposure to large amounts can cause illnesses.

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, indoor mold can trigger allergies or allergy-like symptoms in the upper respiratory system. The most common symptoms are:

  • Nasal and sinus congestion
  • Cough
  • Wheezing/breathing difficulties
  • Sore throat
  • Skin and eye irritation
  • Upper respiratory infections (including sinus infections)

Over the past four months, Hewitt has been working with Carrie Showalter of WVU Student Legal Services and Nancy Key of Environmental Health & Safety (Environmental Health and Safety Specialist, Indoor Air Quality) to write legislature related to mold and trying to contact delegates.

Now on to bed bugs – the reason this can be a problem is that it’s quite an expensive problem to fix, especially if the place is already furnished, Hewitt said. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, to remove bed bugs, you must “heat infested articles and/or areas through to at least 113 ºF (45 ºC) for 1 hour. The higher the temperature, the shorter the time needed to kill bed bugs at all life stages.”

And because I’m getting itchy writing about it, I feel it’s only fair that I show you what an adult bed bug looks like.

(photo from http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/housingandclothing/dk1022.html)

There’s also a bed bug registry to find out if there’s been infestations in specific areas or even hotels.

If you live in Morgantown, have you experienced any issues with mold or bed bugs? Please comment and let me know!

Hewitt had many interesting things to say about the quality of housing in Morgantown, but I’m going to save that for the next post. Please check back!

-Leann