Mold found in U of L dorm; students told to move out

LOUISVILLE — University of Louisville students living in one of the oldest residence halls on campus got abrupt notices to move out Wednesday after high levels of mold spores were found.

The 270 students, many in the midst of mid-term exams, were told to pack up and be out of Miller Hall by this weekend. University officials were assisting in finding them alternative housing on or off campus and were providing movers to help students.

Miller Hall resident Andrew Nathan, 18, of Bardstown, said the sudden move was a big distraction as he crammed for his biology and psychology exams.

"I hate moving," Nathan said. "It's just an extreme inconvenience."

Nathan didn't know yet where he would end up. The school said students would be offered vacant rooms in university-affiliated housing or in hotels. The school will provide a shuttle service for students staying in hotels.

Miller Hall, a freshman, coed dorm built in 1964, will be closed the rest of the semester for cleanup.

Mold had become visible in about 80 percent of rooms in recent days, said Shannon Staten, the university's director of housing.

"To ask students to move back into that, whether it made them sick or not, that just didn't feel like a livable environment that we want our students being in," Staten told reporters outside the dorm.

The mold was detected during fall break that continued through Tuesday, campus officials said.

The spores have been preliminarily identified as aspergillus and penicillium. At normal levels, they can be irritating and can cause problems for people with allergies, asthma and other respiratory problems, officials said.

Campus health officials reviewed the cases of 15 students living in Miller Hall who have been seen at the student health center, said Dr. Phillip Bressoud, director of student health. There was no indication of any mold-related illnesses, he said.

Symptoms include sore throat, burning eyes, chronic cough and lingering sinus infection.

All residence halls on campus were visually inspected after the school received scattered complaints about mold, Staten said. Crews were following up with spot inspections and air-quality testing, she said. Those results won't be available for a few more days.

The cleanup at Miller Hall will include a top-to-bottom search for the causes of the mold outbreak, officials said.

"In the first of September, none of this was here," Bressoud said. "Finding mold on hard surfaces a month later, something dramatically changed, and we're not sure what that is yet."

Students will not bear any additional costs for the move to other campus-affiliated housing or hotels, officials said.

The goal is to have Miller Hall reopened at the start of the spring semester early next year, they said.

The university doesn't know how much the cleanup will cost, or how much the associated expenses will total. For now, the focus is to get the students resettled with as little disruption as possible, Staten said.

Students won't be allowed to sleep in Miller Hall after Thursday night and will have until Sunday to get all their belongings out.

Most students will be relocated by Sunday, officials said.

Pauline Gibson, a Miller Hall resident from Paducah, was on a hurry-up moving schedule because she was catching a flight out of Louisville later Wednesday for a trip to Florida.

She was hustling to carry boxes out of the dorm, assisted by a couple of friends. She was trying to be upbeat about the abrupt move and said university officials had already helped her find another place to live.

"They really worked with us," she said. "It's an unfortunate situation and they did their best."