October 16 Update to Residential Students
MOLD AND MILDEW PREVENTION AND RESPONSE
October 16, 2021
We look forward to the semester resuming after Fall Break. Given the ongoing warm and humid weather, we want to share information about the University’s proactive and layered approach to mold and mildew prevention.
Yesterday we completed our room review in St. Monica, Katharine, Caughlin, McGuire, Sheehan, Sullivan, Stanford, Good Counsel, Austin, Alumni, Corr, Fedigan, Delurey, Simpson, O’Dwyer and St. Mary’s halls. With the help of outside contractors, all HVAC units in these buildings were inspected and cleaned, as necessary.
In this review, as well as through addressing all work orders reporting suspected mold this semester, we have found no evidence to suggest that there is any systemic or building-related mold issue on campus beyond those individual cases caused by the recent damp and humid weather. It is important for any student who lives on campus to report mold or suspected mold by submitting a work request through the Residence Life or Facilities Management websites as soon as possible. We are committed to a timely and satisfactory response.
We realize that the warm and humid conditions of our region mean mold can form and so we have contracted with an outside firm highly regarded for environmental services to conduct a thorough mold assessment in the residence halls on Main Campus, South Campus and in St. Mary’s. The findings will be shared with our community.
We encourage you to forward this email to parents or family members who may be interested. There is also information available on the Mold and Mildew Prevention page on the Facilities Management website.
Please know that the University follows guidance from the CDC and EPA on how to best treat and prevent mold, and has been working closely with Radnor Township. Below is information regarding the proactive measures and responsive steps Villanova takes:
Each summer, the Facilities Management Office oversees a thorough program to inspect each room and HVAC unit to ensure they are clean and ready for the upcoming school year.
Deep cleaning and prevention efforts during summer break:
- All residence hall HVAC units are cleaned and sanitized, and filters are changed each summer.
- Rooms are treated with Clorox 360, which sanitizes surfaces and inhibits mold growth.
- New HVAC systems were recently installed that serve only the hallways and stairwells of four freshman residence halls to further reduce the humidity levels.
Preventing issues during student move-in (when doors are propped open):
- Large temporary dehumidifiers are installed in many of the freshman halls, to reduce the humidity that inevitably enters the buildings during move-in.
Any time the University receives a report of suspected mold in a residence hall, there is a swift and coordinated response from Villanova’s Offices of Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities Management and Residence Life. When the report references an air conditioning unit, our Maintenance Department immediately cleans it appropriately, whether we believe there is mold or not. When the reported concern is unrelated to an air conditioning unit, the room is first evaluated by trained staff from our Environmental Health and Safety Team who use the Dampness and Mold Assessment Tool created by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health—a branch of the CDC.
If mold is identified, we work quickly to address the situation by:
- Cleaning and disinfecting affected areas.
- Assessing and ensuring proper air circulation.
- Having maintenance staff check the HVAC unit to make sure it’s working optimally.
- Providing a dehumidifier in instances where the humidity levels are found to be elevated.
- As a note: The air conditioning and ventilation in the residence hall rooms are not interconnected. Each room has an individual air conditioning unit. So, an issue in one room is not symptomatic of a larger issue within the entire residence hall.
Communication and Education
At times, campus community members can unintentionally play a role in creating an atmosphere that leads to mold by leaving windows open, blocking HVAC vents or setting thermostats too low. When the weather conditions outdoors are particularly humid, the situation may be exacerbated. As part of addressing any potential mold issues, we work to educate our community about these factors.
Prevent mildew or mold build-up by:
- Keeping windows closed when the air conditioning is running.
- Maintain thermostats between 70 – 72 degrees Fahrenheit and keep HVAC fans set to “Auto”.
- Referencing proper use of air conditioning units through a series of brief videos developed by the Office of Residence Life.
- Making sure HVAC units/vents are not blocked and the air is allowed to circulate. Impeding the air flow decreases the efficiency of the unit.
- Being mindful of wet or damp items, and making sure items are dry before putting them away.
- Using containers to store items under beds.
We instruct our entire campus community that anyone who observes what they suspect to be mildew/mold, excessive condensation or is having maintenance issues with their air conditioning unit should report the situation immediately to our Facilities Management Office (610-519-4420) from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. M-F or, after hours, to contact Public Safety at 610-519-6979, so a member of the on-duty Facilities team can be dispatched to respond.
While there are many mold tests marketed directly to consumers, the CDC does not recommend or perform routine sampling for molds because “standards for judging what is an acceptable, tolerable or normal quantity of mold have not been established.” The CDC states that the best practice is to remove mold and address moisture issues to prevent future growth.
Whenever mold testing is conducted, mold is found because it is ubiquitous. Home “petri-dish style” mold sampling kits are not recommended because all they do is confirm the presence of spores, which both the EPA and CDC say are present in all environments. The University works proactively to remove mold in cases where it may be found—and to address moisture issues to prevent future growth.
We can’t state strongly enough that the health and safety of students is Villanova’s highest priority, and we work hard to ensure a campus environment that is conducive to healthy living, learning and working.
If you have an issue—or simply want a mold assessment for peace of mind—please submit a work order by going through the Residence Life or Facilities Management websites. This request will ensure a timely response to the room.
We look forward to a productive rest of the semester.
Kathleen J. Byrnes, JD
Vice President for Student Life
Robert H. Morro, PE
Vice President for Facilities Management