Housinginvestigates moisture complaints

What a concerned parent thought was mold in the ceiling of her daughter’s dorm room in Holly Apartments has been identified as blotches of moisture caused by a leak in a shower floor one story above.

Darcy Miller, a parent of a USF student, posted photos of the unknown substance on the ceiling of her daughter’s room to the USF Department of Housing and Residential Education’s Facebook page Nov. 19.

On the page, Miller wrote, “They have had water in the ceiling for over a month … (USF) offered to put them in a different room while this is being worked out, although the (roommates) have to be split up.”

The photos and comments by Miller were taken off of Facebook on Tuesday, said Ana Hernandez, dean of Housing and Residential Education.

Hernandez said she could not comment on the resident’s accommodations. However, she said the department is looking into the issue, which is similar to past complaints.

“There were a variety of work orders that have happened, and we believed we had addressed what the issues were as they were coming in,” she said. “There was an incident in September, there was an incident in October and now we have an incident in November. There was moisture that was involved in all of the concerned areas.”

The Department of Environmental Health and Safety tested the air quality of the room in question Saturday and determined that there was no mold formation, she said.

“However, the ceiling was wet, and what we have discovered is that there was a leaking shower (floor) from the ceiling above that we are now in the process of fixing,” she said. “There isn’t any way to determine when that happened.”

In one of the Facebook photo captions, Miller wrote that her daughter and her roommates were “getting sick” from the leak in the ceiling. However, Hernandez said the environmental staff found nothing toxic in the room.

“I can’t speak to individual student’s circumstances, but different people react differently, whether it is allergic reactions,” she said. “But we are always concerned if students are not having a good residential experience.”

Hernandez said the shower would be fixed in “a few weeks” over winter break while residents are away from their dormitories.

“We’re taking action to fix the shower issue, and then we’ll be able to replace the needed parts and address the moisture in the ceiling … by trying to dry out the ceiling,” she said. “The shower that is affected by that will have to go through some demolition processes, so it may be a number of weeks before we’re able to put that shower back into commission.”

Hernandez said the moisture issue was similar to the past complaints this semester in Holly.

According to the housing website, rates for Holly Apartments for the 2010-11 school year are $833 per month, or $3,332 per semester. Each apartment has its own bathroom, instead of a large common bathroom, and is cleaned by residents instead of custodians.

“We really rely on our residents to let us know what they’re experiencing in their apartment,” Hernandez said. “We do health and safety checks just to make sure that there aren’t any issues that exist in the apartments over the break. We encourage residents to let us know if there is anything that is not satisfactory about their residential experience, and we take all concerns seriously.”

Miller declined to comment.