Mold has been found in Andres and Zimmerman Halls, two of the undergraduate residence halls that make up the East Wheelock House community, Frank Roberts, associate vice president of facilities operations and management, told residents in an email on Friday.
Dartmouth is taking immediate steps to remediate the problem and to provide alternative housing for students who request it.
“We know that this is a confusing and disruptive issue that is the last thing you want to be dealing with right now,” Roberts wrote. “Our goal over the next several days is to provide clear information about the situation and to work with you to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”
Students should contact their professors if they anticipate that the disruption will impact their ability to complete assignments. Administrators from across campus, including representatives from Facilities, Environmental Health and Safety, Dick’s House, Residential Life, and other departments will be available to answer questions at an East Wheelock community gathering at 7 p.m. on Sunday in Brace Commons.
Detailed information on the findings and steps to remediate the problem are available on a mold remediation website that has been created.
The tested sites included representative locations recommended for inspection by Dartmouth’s environmental consultant, Woodard & Curran, as well as spaces that residents themselves have requested be inspected. The sites were inspected visually and samples from sites where potential mold growth was observed were sent for analysis at a certified laboratory.
Mold was found in 17 air handlers—part of the residential heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system used to heat, cool, and circulate air within rooms in Andres and Zimmerman. The mold identified was predominantly Penicillium and Cladosporium, and to a lesser extent Acrodontium, Aspergillus, and Ulocladium. The inspectors also observed mold on one ceiling tile and on caulking around a sink, both of which have been replaced.
In addition, inspectors found mildew—a form of mold that can be removed with everyday surface cleaners—growing in private bathroom showers. Students can remove mildew with cleaning products available on campus. The inspectors found no evidence of water damage to support mold growth.
“Dartmouth takes this situation seriously, and we are taking the needed and recommended steps to manage these findings,” Roberts said. Though not every unit in Andres and Zimmerman has been tested, Dartmouth will remediate all the HVAC systems in the two buildings.
Residents of Andres and Zimmerman have been offered the choice to relocate or to remain in their rooms during this process, according to their individual health concerns, such as a compromised immune system or respiratory sensitivities. Students with questions or concerns about their sensitivity to mold should contact their primary care physician or call the triage nurse at Dick’s House at 603-646-9440.
Dartmouth will provide moving assistance for any student who needs to be relocated. To request assistance, call Residential Operations at 603-646-1203, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. After regular business hours, students may call Safety and Security at 603-646-4000 and ask for the dean on call to contact them.
Residents who choose to move will likely be temporarily housed at the Boss Tennis Center through the weekend. The center had been set up to house students in isolation in the event of a significant COVID-19 outbreak, but has not yet been used in this capacity. The center has been investigated by Dartmouth’s environmental consultant, who found no signs of mold.
Students will have full access to their rooms in Andres and Zimmerman during this time. For students who wish to stay in their residence halls, Dartmouth will schedule remediation of individual spaces, beginning with the top floor of each building and working their way down to the first floor.
“We expect the work to take approximately two to three hours per HVAC unit and we plan to remediate all suites over the next eight to 10 business days, beginning on Tuesday, as we will be scheduling the work and receiving materials on Monday,” Roberts said.
This stage of the remediation process will include vacuuming the interior surfaces of each HVAC unit in Andres and Zimmerman with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum to clean the units; installing additional filtration to reduce the potential for mold to be transported from the HVAC systems; and vacuuming each suite with a HEPA vacuum to remove settled particulate, including mold.
In the interim, residence hall vacuums, which students can use to clean their rooms, will be replaced with HEPA units, and staff will conduct more extensive checks for the presence of mold. Plans for further remediation, to be completed over winter break and before the start of winter term, are being made in consultation with the environmental consultants.
Roberts noted that the age and design of the HVAC system in Andres and Zimmerman are different from other systems on campus—including those in other residence halls, most of which rely on natural ventilation through windows. “We believe the identified condition is limited to Andres and Zimmerman,” he said.
Even so, Facilities and Environmental Health and Safety staff are planning additional inspections for mold in other residential buildings over the next few weeks, and will expand current mold protocols to include regularly scheduled checks throughout all campus buildings
Anyone suspecting the presence of mold in their residential space should call 603-646-1203 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request an inspection.
Roberts invites those with questions about the remediation process to contact him or to email Dartmouth’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety. More information about mold can be found at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site.