Last Friday, New Apartment (“New Apt”) residents received final mold test results from the Office of Residential Life (ResLife). According to Director of Residential Life Leah Reuber, these final results revealed that only three units had mold counts in the moderate range, while the others had low levels of mold.
The New Apts are notoriously one of the least desirable housing options: Besides their distance from South Campus and their thin walls, the apartments have had reports of mold and mice. Earlier this semester, residents of two New Apts, D1 and D8, had to vacate after mold was discovered in their units. Following a number of mold complaints, ResLife tested other students’ New Apts in October and determined that remediation would be necessary. “When we first received reports of mold, we worked with students to get the air quality testing done and to get remediation efforts into those units,” Reuber said.
The problem stems mainly from the New Apts’ damp location. They are situated down an embankment behind the NCAs, a location that encourages flooding and moisture. Additionally, the New Apts are particularly vulnerable to mold because of their proximity to the woods and their many windows. Reuber noted that the apartments’ consistent occupancy could also contribute to issues. “The New Apartments are in pretty heavy use all throughout the year, so it’s harder to get in there and give [the New Apts] kind of a break period where they’re not being used, which can contribute to some of that wear and tear in different buildings,” she said.
Residents received the results from the mold tests on Friday. To redistribute this information to students, ResLife went through a nearly 100-page document from Chem-Tech, the testing provider, found the information for each apartment and then emailed each resident their apartment’s results. The levels of mold in each New Apt were determined by the mold spore concentration, or number of reproductive mold cells, in each unit. These mold spores cannot usually be detected without magnification and are often found wafting through the air. The vast majority of New Apts were found to have low levels of mold, while only three units were reported to have moderate levels, according to Reuber.
In response to these findings, a specialized company will come to campus this Thanksgiving break to conduct in-depth cleaning of each apartment. Reuber explained that most of the mold was detected in bathrooms, near windowsills and in other areas with limited airflow or abundant moisture, and that the company coming to clean will have each apartment’s test results so that they know which areas in each residence need to be cleaned. The company will also be inspecting the HVAC systems of each building to ensure that they are cleaned, and will potentially replace the filters if needed.
In the meantime, after sharing these results, ResLife suggested a number of preventative measures against mold, such as storing items in plastic instead of cardboard, reporting any leaks to maintenance and turning their exhaust fan on after using the shower. All students were also advised to remove items from under stairs and put away wet towels and clothes.
Despite the results that the mold levels are not particularly dangerous or harmful, not all students are satisfied. New Apt resident Sasha Litt ’25 said that the results initially left her feeling more confused than anything. Although, according to Litt, her apartment has visible mold in the bathroom, the report she and her housemates received says that mold is not visible in their unit. Since this fact was omitted, Litt was concerned that the testing process may not have been thorough. “They didn’t really tell us [what the test entailed],” she said. Although she and her housemates were eventually informed that mold was present in their bathroom and under their stairs, they still are unaware if their common space or kitchen were ever tested.
Although Litt’s apartment scored relatively low on spore counts overall, every room did not present those same levels. For example, one of Litt’s housemates had to have their mattress and rug removed because trichoderma mold, a green mold most commonly found indoors, was discovered. Litt speculated that this may be because that housemate’s room is closest to a large window. This guess is in line with the testing information Reuber provided to the Collegian that windowsills were hotbeds for most of the mold in the apartments.
Although ResLife may have taken longer to respond than students had hoped, Reuber noted that as soon as ResLife staff received reports of mold, they began to take steps to address the issues. “When we received first reports of mold, we worked with students to get air testing done,” she said. “[The issue] was brought to us, and we’re just doing our due diligence to make sure it’s taken care of. It’s taken a bit of time just because there’s about 140 residents out there.”
She also noted that in the future, ResLife plans to be more proactive in its efforts to prevent mold-related issues. “I think we’re looking now to be more intentional about what spaces we use during the summer, and making sure that we have time to get in there and do a deep cleaning before new occupants come in. That requires a little bit of creative thinking in terms of where summer residents land, where summer research folks land, where camps and conferences land,” she said. “That’s something we’ve realized we need to be pretty intentional about to make sure that those deep cleanings happen, so that way [the mold] doesn’t build up from year to year.”