Mold found in dorm rooms

Students in eight Frontier Hall dorm rooms had to move out temporarily.

by David Litin

The humidity and heat during the University of Minnesota’s move-in caused a mold outbreak in Frontier Hall this fall.

Mold was found in 16 rooms, and students in half of them had to move out. Some students said they were concerned about their health, and those displaced aren’t sure when they’ll be able to move back into their rooms.

Connie Thompson, assistant department director of Housing and Residential Life, said there have been minor reports of mold problems in the past, but nothing of this scale.

“We’ve never had this in my 24 years working here,” she said.

Neil Carlson, a public health specialist from the University’s Environmental Health and Safety department, said when the hot, humid air outside mixed with the air-conditioned rooms, it created condensation that “overwhelmed” the cooling system.

Students first reported the mold Sept. 23, safety and health compliance specialist Michael Buck said.

Affected students could select from open spaces in other residence halls or University apartments.

Accounting freshman Katie Fineout chose to move to Yudof with her three roommates. They had to move all of their stuff last weekend, when Fineout said she had exams.

“It was really inconvenient,” she said.

Fineout said University staff told her and her roommates they could move back into Frontier as soon as next week or as late as the end of the semester.

Biomedical engineering freshman Jane Schmanski said she thought her recent illness was just allergies, but it actually stemmed from the mold.

“We were sick a few days before we discovered it,” Schmanski said.

Her room had mold in the air-conditioning unit, but she didn’t have to move.

Physics freshman Savoy Schuler said there was a lot of commotion among residents after the mold was discovered.

“Everyone was freaking out,” he said.

Schuler said he and his roommate bleached out the mold in their air-conditioning unit.

University Services spokesman Tim Busse said Frontier Hall residents received an email explaining the situation and were advised to check their rooms for any indication of mold.

Residents who reported mold were told to empty their rooms so the staff could clean them, Busse said. Some rooms had to have the carpets removed.

“They were cleaned from top to bottom,” he said.

Pre-health freshman Chloe Laabs said staff members tested multiple rooms on her side of the building.

“They turned off the air-conditioning and opened windows,” she said, “just in case.”

Laabs said she saw many workers going up and down her hallway in the days since the mold outbreak was first reported.

Busse said the cost of all of the mold removal is still uncertain.

No other residence halls have reported mold this year, Thompson said.

Frontier Hall was built in 1959, and it was renovated in 2000, which Thompson said included updating the heating and cooling systems.

Thompson said HRL is working to figure out what it can do to keep mold away next year.

“There’s no assurance that it won’t happen again,” she said.