Living Learning Center

Approximately 25 UPJ students have been moved from the Living Learning Center while the facility is cleaned. Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. Todd Berkey/The Tribune-Democrat

Approximately 25 students at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown have been moved from the Living Learning Center while the facility is cleaned, school officials said.

Testing and remediation efforts were ongoing Tuesday to address the issue, and in the meantime, six students were moved to the Quality Inn hotel on Theatre Drive, while approximately 19 others are temporarily being housed in freshman dorms, such as Hickory, Oak and Hemlock halls, according to Eric Sloss, the school’s executive director of communications.

“There’s been an unusual amount of rain and humidity in our area, and that’s a perfect environment for mold spores,” Sloss said.

But school officials are trying to determine why the problem has become so frequent in recent months.

Mold tests are performed regularly prior to the start of the school year – after rooms can often sit empty for months.  Fourteen rooms tested positive for surface mold and they were thoroughly cleaned, he added.

They were deemed safe for occupancy by the time students returned for the fall semester. But earlier this month, students reported moldy conditions again and a follow-up test was conducted, Sloss said.

At that point, students were moved elsewhere on campus or to off-site accommodations.

As of Tuesday, the issue was only impacting a small section of the 400-student building, which is also home to conference rooms and a dining hall. That area remains in use, he said.

This week, staff from the cleaning company Servpro were brought in to clean the area, Sloss said.

Members of the University of Pittsburgh’s Environmental Health and Safety Department were on campus Tuesday to determine what other steps, if any, might be needed, he said.

Sloss said school officials weren’t sure how quickly students would be able to return to their rooms, but said the school has compensated them for the inconvenience.

Students received a $1,000 rebate on their housing costs and extra money for campus dining, he said.

Weeks of humidity and heavy rain have caused mold issues inside buildings throughout the region over the past few months.

Public schools in the Huntingdon and DuBois areas both closed for several days last month after mold spores were found.

The city of Johnstown’s Public Safety Building’s basement was closed to foot traffic last month after Councilwoman Charlene Stanton voiced concerns about the problem during a council meeting. In that case, however, there have been flooding issues with the basement itself for several years, city officials said.

City Council is awaiting an inspection report on the building, which is home to Johnstown’s fire and police departments.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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