When two Austin freshmen moved to UT, they dreamed of an exciting social life.
By April they had six uninvited guests in their Austin Hall shower, and that dream had turned to a nightmare.
In addition to a half dozen cockroaches scurrying around their shower, the corners have been covered for weeks in what appears to be a black mold.
Facilities blames miscommunication for the problem.
On Friday, April 6, the two students found several cockroaches had migrated from their bathroom into their room. The bugs had been situated around a black mold that had rapidly spread into all corners of their shower.
While trying to dodge the scurrying insects, one of the residents fell over a chair and injured her arm and shin. After notifying security, she declined medical attention.
Throughout the past few weeks, the roommates have complained of headaches, difficulty breathing, and excessive nosebleeds.
A few weeks ago, the residents noticed black patches along the corners of the shower. The women asked their RA to contact facilities. They noticed the mold began to spread along the bottom corners of the shower.
The two roommates tried to use boric acid and bleach to rid the black patches that were attracting the bugs, but that did not solve the problem.
The residents’ RA was away for Easter break, so they called the emergency RAs on duty, who directed them to security. Security contacted facilities, who finally came around 8 p.m.
After being shown the moldy substance, the worker scrubbed the outside corners but couldn’t remove the black patches.
The facilities worker picked up one what appeared to be a palmetto bug (a flying cockroach) and flushed it down the toilet, saying an exterminator would have to fix the problem. Facilities is not certified to exterminate bugs.
The frustrated students spent that night in different residence halls. To deter the insects, the roommates kept the air-conditioning on high and the lights on in the bathroom.
“I really don’t feel safe with this problem,” one roommate said.
Housekeeping Supervisor Chang Ashby says Facilities never received an emergency email regarding the cockroach and mold incident. He explains the situation as a “miscommunication.”
Right before the fall semester, Best Pest, an extermination company, sprayed inside for cockroaches. The outside perimeter of all residence halls are sprayed every six months for ants, roaches, and termites.
Rescom, Brevard, Vaughn, Smiley, and Austin have were all sprayed in early April, while the remaining residence halls are now being sprayed. UT has contracted with Best Pest for more than 18 years.
“It is difficult to verify if the substance was mold,” Ashby explained, “But whether or not it is mold, we will clean the area.”
To rid areas with mold, facilities uses Sud and Kleen.
“It is a stronger cleaner and is not reactive,” Ashby stated.
He advises students not to use bleach on mold because it will not wipe out the infected area. The top layer will die but will soon return.
“Bleach is very reactive,” Ashby said.
Housekeeping offers weekly cleanings and trash disposal.
Office Assistant of Facilities Brian Christoph notes,
“We are not allowed to go into rooms unless there is a request,” meaning students must directly request extermination services.
Regarding the mold, Ashby said, “Facilities should have treated the inside part of the shower.”
If neighbors have a cockroach problem, chances are there will be a problem is surrounding rooms.
Students should verify the next day that their request has been received by Facilities, Ashby added.
If students have a problem, they should directly call facilities at 813-253-6227 or contact Chang Ashby at email@example.com.