Originally published on the Western Carolina Journalist
Mold is being noticed in buildings around campus. One building was Hunter Library and now, the TV and recording studios in the Center for Applied Technology (CAT) building. The TV and recording studios are small rooms and are used very often. During the week, 50 students use the recording studio and 38 students use the TV studio. The rooms were cleaned on March 15 and completed in three days by Servpro. The process to get this service done took over two years.
“We’ve brought up this concern, and there’s no updates, so more constant communication would be really, really helpful. It would just ease our sense of ‘Okay, well they’re aware of it’ because right now it feels like no one is doing anything. It really felt that way when he (Matt Binford) reached out in September and then – boom -silence. It does feel like they’ve forgotten about us and this issue,” said Ethan King, recording engineer for the school of music.
Matt Binford, communications professor, oversees the TV studio where shows are produced, camera and recording equipment is stored, and classes are held. Ethan King oversees the recording studio where music is produced, instruments are stored, and classes are held.
What caused mold growth
Binford and King first noticed mold in their studios in August 2021. Binford first saw it on fabric for a studio light and King first saw mold covering the recording studio desk.
In fall 2022, the inside of the TV studio was 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity level was high at 70 percent. Binford has a hydrometer to measure the humidity in the room. The equipment in the TV and recording studios need cool temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity level should be between 51 and 55 percent, according to risk management.
“It’s not really a usable facility if we’re pushing 90 degrees inside during the late fall,” said Binford.
According to director of Safety and Risk Management, Jon Maddy, the cause of mold growth was a two-part system: a malfunction in the CAT building’s chiller system and a leak in the building steam supply line.
“The CAT building’s HVAC system consists of steam reheat coils which are used to control the relative humidity levels of the supplied air for the building. Steam was not readily available due to a leak in the building’s steam supply line that had to be isolated. Also, the building’s chiller system malfunctioned, which is used to control temperature levels for the building. A combination of both systems allowed an increase in the building’s relative humidity and temperature levels which encouraged mold growth,” said Maddy.
Action and inaction taken
On Sept. 14, 2022, Binford and King notified their department heads of the mold.
Scott Eldridge, head of the communications department, reached out to the department of music and the dean of arts and college about the mold. Safety and Risk Management was then made aware of the issue.
On Sept. 16, 2022, director of Safety and Risk Management, Jon Maddy conducted an inspection for mold and according to Binford, was very thorough using a blue light to show the mold that is invisible to the eye. Maddy recommended throwing away items with mold growth to prevent the mold spores from spreading.
King threw away furniture like chairs, a piano cover, a guitar case and some music equipment from storage.
According to Maddy, the mold in the studios is not a health concern. Mold is harmful to TV and recording equipment and degrades it, resulting in it being trashed.
According to Binford, The TV studio uses Sony equipment that is rented out from the company. If the equipment is damaged, the Communications Department will have to pay a fine.
Oct. 7 2022, Eldridge sent an email summarizing Maddy’s findings. King and Binford were told by risk management that cleaning supplies and chemicals will be given to them to help clean some of the mold themselves.
Cleaning supplies and chemicals were never brought to King and Binford. On Dec. 20, King reached out to Risk Management to address the long wait for the cleaning supplies and chemicals first mentioned in October with no updates since then.
On Jan 20, 2023, Binford and King met with risk management to recap the mold situation. Jon Maddy, upon approval of the university, reached out to Binford and King and offered an external cleaning company, Servpro Restoration, to clean the studios for mold.
According to Mike Byers, vice chancellor of finance, the cost of a thorough cleanup by Servpro is $27,000 and is paid for by the Facilities management/maintenance budget.
On Jan 27, a representative from Servpro, Shawn Bowls, inspected the studios and evaluated all the surfaces they will clean. The only thing that won’t be cleaned by Servpro is the technological surfaces. For the TV studio, Binford has not noticed any mold growth on technology. The mold is mostly on hard surfaces like the shelves inside the switcher board console of the TV studio.
After the inspection, Servpro scheduled the cleaning between Feb. 5 and 11, but they have not reached out to King and Binford since then. Maddy emailed The Western Carolinian on March 10 and said that Servpro will clean the studios on March 15.
Servpro did come and clean.
According to a student worker, Logan Johnson, the TV studio looks and feels way cleaner.
King’s thoughts on why it took Servpro a while to schedule a cleaning is because they have other clients, and they don’t just clean mold. Binford thinks that mold is an issue all around campus, so their studio was not the only one being dealt with.
In August 2022, industrial dehumidifiers were brought over as a temporary fix to help bring the humidity to a relative level, according to Maddy. Two large dehumidifiers were brought in for the recording studio and one was in the TV studio’s storage room.
The dehumidifiers helped with lowering humidity, but also caused a few inconveniences. The dehumidifiers were noisy, very big and blocked walkways and raised the temperature of the room, so King and Binford wouldn’t run them all the time.
“I don’t remember [dehumidifiers] being all that effective,” said King.
After winter break, King requested for the dehumidifiers to be removed because the humidity levels were low and steady because of winter weather and the steam system was repaired.
Dehumidifiers are in other buildings on campus. In Stillwell there are two dehumidifiers on the second floor, three in Killian, one on each floor, another in McKee and one on the ground floor of Hunter Library.