Something was growing in Morris Hall and it wasn’t just the budding academic careers of some of Miami University’s first-year students. A black substance was found growing on a water pipe in a shower stall in a first-floor men’s bathroom, leading to speculation it was black mold, a fatal substance when exposed to in large amounts.
According to a Resident Assistant (RA) in Morris, around the time of winter break, a resident began exhibiting signs of suffering from allergies when he would go into the bathroom, which was concerning because Morris Hall benefits from central air conditioning. It was then the growth was discovered in the shower stall.
“We tried resolve the issue on our own,” the RA said. “We talked to our original housekeeper, Donna. Patty (Patricia Stewart, Morris’ building and grounds manager) talked to her housekeepers in the building. Finally, Patty relayed the message to her boss. It took a long time for it to get back to us.”
The RA thought the delay was too long and too little was done to address the situation.
“The housekeepers did a thorough cleaning of the bathroom and said they didn’t know what we were talking about,” the RA said. “At some point you throw your hands in the air and accept that it’s not going to be cleaned.”
The RA expressed concern the issue of possible black mold was never addressed by the university.
“If they would have brought in an expert who looked me dead in the eye and said it’s not black mold or mold of any kind, I’d sleep easier at night. I love my residents and if they got sick from mold, I’d feel partially responsible,” he said.
The RA asked to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions from the university.
However, at the instigation of this article, a small committee was quickly put together by Bill Moloney, senior director for hospitality and custodial services. Included were himself, Jay Barden, senior residence hall manager of Heritage Commons, Anderson Hall and Porter Hall, Matt Frericks, senior director for construction and facilities and auxiliaries and Jeff Johnson, an industrial hygienist and radiation safety officer. The team investigated the shower stall in question Thursday morning shortly after a meeting with this reporter.
According to Johnson, what was found on the water pipe turned out to be just a simple case of mildew. Johnson speculated the problem was caused by a malfunctioning exhaust fan and the trapped moisture led to a small buildup of the mild irritant.
“If those fans aren’t operating properly, you can’t get the moisture out properly,” Johnson said. “It’s a bathroom and you’re going to get mildew. (The water pipe) is a non-porous material not unlike a sink or a bathtub. If it gets mold on it you just clean it and move on.”
According to Frericks, repair requests and building safety concerns should be requested on MyCard. Because none had been filed from Morris Hall, there had been no investigation.
“If students see mold, they should report it to MyCard directly,” Frericks said.
“There’s a misconception that going to the RA or the cleaning staff is the best link. We work closely together, but we’re two different entities, so that’s why we emphasize from the beginning of the year that you have to go to MyCard so we can see it,” Barden said.
According to a phone call placed by Johnson after the investigation, the water pipe in question was quickly cleaned and restored to good order, but the fan will require more attention.
Morris Hall is one of the residence halls slated to be partially renovated over the summer.