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Air Quality Updates

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October 12, 2021 - Fall Break Instructions

The following message was sent to all on-campus residents on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. 

We know you are looking forward to a much deserved fall break this week!

If you are choosing to leave campus, we have some important instructions for you to follow before you go. 

An especially humid summer and fall on the Hill has led to high humidity levels in the residence halls and the accompanying risk of mold growth on both hard and soft surfaces (air vent grills, wooden closets, furniture, clothes, shoes, etc.). While you are on Fall Break and your room door remains closed, the air circulation rate drops, and the risk of mold growth rises.

 

We recommend the following steps to mitigate these risks: 

  1. Leave your thermostat high as you leave your room, 74 degrees or higher. This will reduce the risks of condensation forming in your room (mold needs water to grow).

  2. Leave your closets open and furniture positioned so that there are no “air pocket traps.” This will allow the air in your room to be fully cycled through the HVAC systems.

  3. Do not leave anything against or on top of your HVAC units that will block the flow of air.

  4. If there is any sign of mold on your clothes, shoes, bedding or other “soft” surfaces, wash and dry them before you leave or take your laundry home and wash quickly.

  5. If you do see any sign of mold, text “WKUDFM” to 82257 with your name, room number, and request a “fall break cleaning,” so that we can send a cleaning crew in while you are away. Move your personal property (clothes, refrigerators, etc.) away from the walls and closets so the crew can reach those areas.

    Please note: the cleaning crews will not move or touch your personal property when they enter your room, so they can only clean what is safely accessible.  

  6. When you return, do not immediately drop your thermostats down to low settings (68 or below). This would likely cause condensation and promote mold growth.  We will post the recommended settings in each hall based on the current relative humidity and dew points.   

WKU Facilities will continue to monitor and adjust equipment to lower the humidity levels in affected halls. 

If you encounter issues, submit a maintenance request describing the situation, so that staff can respond, investigate, and take appropriate steps to correct the issue. 

There are many questions about air quality, health and safety, and best practices. We have created a website that addresses those questions and concerns. Please visit wku.edu/housing/airquality/faq.php to learn more.  

If you have additional concerns or questions, please contact hrl@wku.edu

Have a great fall break!


October 11, 2021 - Parent & Family Update

The following message was sent to parents and families of all on-campus residents on Monday, October 11, 2021 through the WKU Parent & Family Portal.

Dear parents and families of all WKU on-campus residents, 

We have been made aware of social media channels in which discussion about the air quality in the residence halls has taken place. Please note that because these unofficial channels are not affiliated with WKU, they are not monitored by university staff. For concerns to be addressed efficiently and effectively, it’s imperative that they are submitted through the designated reporting process. For your ease, a reminder of how to follow this procedure is below. 

University Response

An especially humid summer and fall on the Hill has led to high humidity levels in the residence halls and the accompanying risk of mold growth on both hard and soft surfaces (air vent grills, wooden closets, furniture, clothes, shoes, etc.). High humidity coupled with several multi-day rain events this fall have provided the conditions for excessive pollen and mold spores both outside and inside of buildings, exacerbating seasonal and mold allergies.   

During the week of September 20, the university was alerted to an increase of incidences of common moisture-driven surface mold, particularly in Northeast Hall and Pearce Ford Tower. Dehumidifiers were placed in key locations and every room was investigated and accessible areas were cleaned, if necessary, by a crew of lead staff members from Facilities Management, Environmental Health and Safety, and Housing & Residence Life.  

Air samples were collected and sent to a certified laboratory for analysis. The testing involves collecting air samples from outside and inside buildings for comparison of types of molds and quantity of mold spores. Presence of similar mold types outside and inside the buildings at levels equal to or below those found outside the buildings is considered normal, as all HVAC systems bring fresh air in from outdoors. Corrective actions are immediately taken if indoor levels are significantly elevated or if certain mold types are present that are not normally encountered within buildings. Laboratory results identified common surface molds that are typically found outside and/or form inside when conditions are right. Eight rooms in Northeast and 15 rooms in PFT had elevated levels, and those residents were contacted directly, and their rooms were addressed immediately. Some air units were identified as needing vent cleaning and those rooms were also addressed.  

Isolated maintenance reports have been made from halls other than Northeast and PFT, but not in levels that would indicate a building-wide problem. When reported, those rooms are investigated and cleaned as necessary. 

On Friday, September 24, an external engineering firm initiated an analysis of the existing HVAC systems and supporting equipment in Northeast Hall. This group did their initial site visit and collected design documents for review.  They will be working to determine which issues are currently impacting the main HVAC systems in order to recommend corrective actions. They will also provide recommendations for systemic improvements to minimize any future issues related to air quality.     

As visible surface mold is encountered and reported, WKU staff complete a thorough set of protocols that include cleaning all accessible affected surfaces, looking for and identifying problematic areas of the room, and making adjustments to local HVAC settings to promote lower humidity. Due to the airborne nature of mold spores, follow-up cleaning is often necessary. We recognize that this process can be frustrating, but WKU staff work to follow-up on problematic areas as needed.   

WKU Facilities Management is continuing to analyze and adjust equipment to lower humidity levels in the halls to reduce the risk of mold growth. Engineers are preparing an action plan to update the building’s HVAC system so indoor high humidity events are less likely in the future. WKU Housing & Residence Life has purchased additional equipment to help with humidity levels and should receive the equipment within the next few days.  

Reporting Issues 

It is imperative for students to submit a maintenance request at the first sign of a problem. Maintenance requests help WKU track issues and provide timely service.  

Maintenance requests can be submitted online, by text, by phone, or in person: www.wku.edu/housing/maintenance. Submitting online or by text provides students the ability to provide detailed information and receive updates as the work order is submitted, approved, and resolved.  

WKU staff have been working diligently to respond to parent and student emails and phone calls as quickly as possible when concerns are raised.  

Frequently Asked Questions & Best Practices 

There are many questions about air quality, health and safety, and best practices. We have created a website that addresses those questions and concerns. Please visit www.wku.edu/housing/airquality/faq.php  to learn more. Air quality updates are also available on this site.   

The university partners with students to create an environment that lessens the risk of mold growth. Best practices are available at www.wku.edu/housing/airquality/bestpractices.php.  

 

If you have other questions or concerns regarding the air quality in the residence halls, you can contact hrl@wku.edu and your question or concern will be directed to the appropriate staff member. 

Thank you for your patience and understanding. 

Sincerely,  

WKU Housing & Residence Life


October 8, 2021 - Air Quality Update & Fall Break Instructions

The following is a message from Dr. David Oliver, Director of WKU Environmental Health & Safety and Ken Branch, Director of WKU Facilities Management regarding the instances of mold occurring in various Residence Halls.

Timeline & Causes 

An especially humid summer and fall on the Hill has led to high humidity levels in the residence halls and the accompanying risk of mold growth on both hard and soft surfaces (air vent grills, wooden closets, furniture, clothes, shoes, etc.). High humidity coupled with several multi-day rain events this fall have provided the conditions for excessive pollen and mold spores both outside and inside of buildings, exacerbating seasonal and mold allergies.  

Ongoing Initiatives 

WKU has a comprehensive indoor air quality program that includes periodic air sampling in all educational and residential buildings. These samples are collected and sent to a certified laboratory for analysis. The testing involves collecting air samples from outside and inside buildings for comparison of types of molds and quantity of mold spores. Presence of similar mold types outside and inside the buildings at levels equal to or below those found outside the buildings is considered normal, as all HVAC systems bring fresh air in from outdoors. Corrective actions are immediately taken if indoor levels are significantly elevated or if certain mold types are present that are not normally encountered within buildings.  

WKU Environmental Health and Safety, Housing and Residence Life, and the Department of Facilities Management work closely together to respond to any indoor air quality and building concerns. Crews comprised of lead staff members from each of these units have visited every room in Northeast Hall and PFT to inspect the rooms and HVAC systems. All issues noted were forward to facilities and work orders issued for correction. This work is currently ongoing. Air samples were collected in several rooms in each of the buildings. All laboratory results have shown common surface molds that are typically found outside and/or form inside when conditions are right. A limited number of rooms were shown to have elevated levels. Those residents were notified, and rooms were addressed immediately.  

As visible surface mold is encountered and reported, WKU staff complete a thorough set of protocols that include cleaning all accessible affected surfaces, looking for and identifying problematic areas of the room, and making adjustments to local HVAC settings to promote lower humidity. Due to the airborne nature of mold spores, follow-up cleaning is often necessary. We recognize that this process can be frustrating, but WKU staff work to follow-up on problematic areas as needed.  

WKU Facilities Management is continuing to analyze and adjust equipment to reduce humidity levels in the hall to reduce the risk of mold growth. Engineers are preparing an action plan to update the building’s HVAC system so indoor high humidity events are less likely in the future.  

 

Frequently Asked Questions 

There are many questions about air quality, health and safety, and best practices. We have created a website that addresses those questions and concerns. Please visit wku.edu/housing/airquality/faq.php to learn more.  

 Visit Frequently Asked Questions 

 

IMPORTANT Fall Break Instructions 

While you are on Fall Break and your room door remains closed, the air circulation rate drops, and the risk of mold growth rises. We recommend the following steps to mitigate these risks: 

  1. Leave your thermostat high as you leave your room, 74 degrees or higher. This will reduce the risks of condensation forming in your room (mold needs water to grow). 
     
  2. Leave your closets open and furniture positioned so that there are no “air pocket traps.”This will allow the air in your room to be fully cycled through the HVAC systems. 
     
  3. Do not leave anything against or on top of your HVAC units that will block the flow of air. 
     
  4. If there is any sign of mold on your clothes, shoes, bedding or other “soft” surfaces, wash and dry them before you leave or take your laundry home and wash quickly.  
     
  5. If you do see any sign of mold,text “WKUDFM” to 82257 with your name, room number, and request a “fall break cleaning,”so that we can send a cleaning crew in while you are away. Move your personal property (clothes, refrigerators, etc.) away from the walls and closets so the crew can reach those areas. Please note: the cleaning crews will not move or touch your personal property when they enter your room, so they can only clean what is safely accessible.  
     
  6. When you return, do not immediately drop your thermostats down to low settings (68 or below).  This would likely cause condensation and promote mold growth.  We will post the recommended settings in each hall based on the current relative humidity and dew points.   

 

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through these humid fall months. We are expecting significant improvement in the weather by the end of October. Until then, we will continue to adjust equipment and respond to issues as they are identified.  

If you encounter issues submit a maintenance request describing the situation, so that staff can respond, investigate, and take appropriate steps to correct the issue. 

 

Dr. David E. Oliver Ed.D, CSP, CEM 

Director Environmental Health & Safety 

Emergency Manager 

 

Ken Branch 

Director of WKU Facilities Management 

 

Dr. Mike Reagle 

Assistant Vice President for Student Engagement, Executive Director for Housing & Dining 

WKU Housing & Residence Life 

 


September 29, 2021 - Northeast Hall Update

A team consisting of staff from the WKU Departments of Facilities, Environmental Health and Safety and Housing & Residence Life continue to monitor the air quality in Northeast Hall.

On Friday, September 24, an external engineering firm initiated an analysis of the existing HVAC systems and supporting equipment. This group did their initial site visit and collected design documents for review.  They will be working to determine which issues are currently impacting the main HVAC systems in order to recommend corrective actions. They will also provide recommendations for systemic improvements to minimize any future issues related to air quality.    

The dehumidifiers will remain in the hallways until further notice. Environmental Health & Safety will monitor the indoor air quality to determine when these units can be removed. 

On Monday, September 27, WKU cleaning staff went through each room again to inspect and clean any recurrences of surface mold. Rooms were noted where recurrence occurred.

Crews will enter each room weekly to continue to monitor spaces. Please note that staff are scheduled to enter rooms during the weeks of October 4th and October 11th.

Please do not wait for our staff to review your space - if you encounter issues, please submit maintenance through www.wku.edu/housing/maintenance or text WKUDFM to 82257. Please include your full name, hall/room number, email address, and specific details about the issue. 


September 24, 2021 - PFT Update

Crews from WKU Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) have completed inspections of every room in PFT and reviewed vents and ceiling tiles, air handling units, mattresses, and exterior surfaces of furniture. 

EHS has identified 15 rooms that require maintenance to air units. Those units will be serviced today. Residents of those rooms have been notified by email. 

Additionally, some air units were identified as needing vent cleaning. Crews will stop by rooms to complete cleaning of those air units, starting today after 10am. 

The dehumidifiers in the hallways will remain through Monday, September 27. At that time their placement and use will be reevaluated. 

If you encounter issues, please submit maintenance through www.wku.edu/housing/maintenance or text WKUDFM to 82257. Please include your full name, hall/room number, email address, and specific details about the issue. 


September 23, 2021 - Northeast Hall Update

Crews from WKU Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) have completed inspections of every room in Northeast Hall and reviewed vents and ceiling tiles, air handling units, mattresses, and exterior surfaces of furniture. 

EHS has identified specific rooms of concern and those rooms have been cleaned and addressed today. Residents of those rooms have been notified.

The dehumidifiers in the hallways will remain through Monday, September 27. At that time their placement and use will be reevaluated. 

If you encounter issues, please submit maintenance through www.wku.edu/housing/maintenance or text WKUDFM to 82257. Please include your full name, hall/room number, email address, and specific details about the issue. 


September 22, 2021

Since the beginning of the fall 2021 semester, the WKU Department of Facilities Management and Housing & Residence Life have responded to isolated incidents of surface mold in residence hall rooms. Over the weekend, the university was alerted to an increase of incidences of common moisture-driven surface mold in some residence halls. WKU has taken measures to assist in lowering indoor humidity levels as the wet weather conditions continue over the next several days. Dehumidifiers have been placed in key locations in the buildings. The ongoing high humidity and rain in our region has led to excessive moisture and is a contributing factor to the presence of surface mold. WKU has communicated with residents of the affected halls.

On Tuesday, September 21, the WKU Department of Environmental Health and Safety entered every room in Northeast Hall to inspect and assess the issues. EHS will provide a report to HRL to determine next steps for cleaning, maintenance, and/or remediation. EHS will be entering every room in Pearce Ford Tower beginning Wednesday, September 22 with the same goal. 

Any resident who encounters an issue should submit a maintenance request at www.wku.edu/housing/maintenance or text “WKUDFM” to 82257 and include the building, room number, specific issue and important information, your first and last name, and your email address.  

 

Steps students can take to help reduce moisture in their room:

  • Keep your room temperature set at 70 degrees or higher and the fan setting on automatic.
    These settings will minimize the creation of additional humidity.

    It is not recommended to fluctuate between extreme temperatures or to regularly turn the unit on/off.

  • Keep your windows closed.
    Opening windows introduces more moisture into the room, again providing a good environment for mold to grow.

  • Wipe up excess moisture.
    Dropping temperatures pull moisture from the air, causing condensation, or drops of water, to form on surfaces such as windows and desktops. Cleaning these areas with a dry cloth removes the moisture.

  • Frequently clean your room and wipe down your air unit with disinfectant wipes.
    The buildup of dust can contribute to allergens in the air and can cause issues with your air unit.

  • Hang up wet clothing, backpacks and anything fabric.
    Don’t place wet shoes, towels, and clothing in your closet until they are dried.  Please make sure to check any rugs or floor mats that may be damp; these will add humidity to your room as well. Free laundry is available; please consider using the dryers to help dry clothing/jackets as soon as possible.

Thank you for your continued patience and understanding as we work to address this issue.

WKU Housing & Residence Life


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 Last Modified 10/13/21