Here's an email I sent to my division VP today.
Once again I find myself enlisting your assistance in solving ongoing problems which affect day to day operations here in building 5. Please bear with me, I know I’m not known for being brief.
As you may or may not have been informed, I have had some difficulty in my office with water after a heavy rain. Joe N. from Facilities claimed the problem was from the air conditioner, and Joe C. from Facilities claimed the water was coming in through the walls. After the high winds and rain from the remnants of Katrina passed through recently, someone from Facilities came up to check for water, telling me that someone had FINALLY caulked the outside of the building where it was suspected water was entering. The jury is still out on that, as far as I’m concerned. The real test will be when there’s a driving rain from the east/northeast.
In addition to the aggravation of the water, what do you suppose is growing underneath the carpet where the water has accumulated and then dried several times over? My money is on mold and mildew. I’ve been told that Facilities does carpet replacement on a “rotating basis,” but I know for sure that the comptroller’s office has had new carpet twice in the 11 years I’ve been here, while we still have the same moldy carpets. Of course, it doesn’t make much practical/fiscal sense to replace carpets until we know for sure the water issue has been resolved.
Sometime around mid-June, during the time the air handlers were down and we were sweltering in high temperatures and high humidity, I discovered rodent droppings and urine stains in my two overhead cabinets in the back office of 5-212. These cabinets stored office supplies (pens, pencils, paper clips, etc.) and coffee supplies (coffee in a can, creamer in a plastic container). The amount of droppings indicated that there were either numerous rodents, or that they’d been undiscovered for some time. If I was a betting person, I’d bet on the latter. I hadn’t made coffee in some time.
I placed a call to Building Services, and they brought up two Victor “glue traps,” and put peanuts in them. One was placed inside the cabinet, and the other was placed on the countertop behind the coffee pot. I checked the traps daily until I went on vacation in early July. I was on vacation for two weeks and warily checked the traps upon my return. Nothing.
I usually keep a roll of toilet paper on the counter, for quick clean-ups, etc. In early September I was making coffee and my attention was drawn to something white. The toilet paper had been unraveled some, and dragged into the glue trap, and the peanuts were gone. Spring traps were brought in and, because I expressed a belief that it may actually be chipmunks, two “Hav-a-heart” traps were brought in as well. I got a heavy duty disinfectant from Building Services, and cleaned out the mess from the overhead cupboards, but left them emptied out, with the supplies sitting in a box on the floor, waiting to catch the rodents. Eventually I got tired of tripping over the boxes and, after examining the cupboard and ascertaining that there were no new droppings, I put the supplies back into the cupboard.
In the meantime, the office located directly over mine on the 5th floor has captured, in spring traps, 8 mice in the past 2 weeks. The secretary in that office has literally had one scamper across her desk while she was working. She told me that they had notified the Dean, who had notified Janet G., in an effort to get someone to pay attention to the problem.
A professor down the hall from me captured a chipmunk in a “Hav-a-Heart” trap.
Two weeks ago, I found mouse droppings on my desk. I cleaned them off, and the next morning found more droppings. It’s not unusual for me to come in and find droppings on my desk. There were droppings on my desk this morning. Finally, at some point between the time I left yesterday and the time I came in this morning, one of the traps in my office contained a dead mouse. Hopefully it’s the one that’s been leaving his calling card on my desk each night.
There are bees in both rest rooms on the 2nd floor in Building 5. On Monday, David D. stopped by my office and reported to me that there was a bee in a urinal in the men’s room. I had seen a dead bee on the floor in the ladies room, but thought nothing of it until he reported it. I called Building Services and reported the bees. Zach came up with spray and told me that he’d killed 7 or 8 bees in the ladies room. When he and I went back into the ladies room together, there were two more flying around, which he sprayed and killed. Tuesday, I was in the ladies room and saw two bees flying around the air duct in the ceiling. One of them flew in and didn’t return. I reported this to Building Services, and was referred to Bobbi H. in the Safety Office. I placed a call to Facilities as well, and reported the problem since I figured that an air duct infestation would fall within their realm of responsibility. I also placed a sign on the door to the ladies room that said “BEWARE OF BEES.”
Bobbi came over later that day and we went into the ladies room, and I showed her where I’d seen the bees and explained to her that, if they were going up in there, it was likely because there was a nest there. I’m not sure of what actions Bobbi took, but not long after I met with Bobbi, I went into the ladies room and saw insecticide literally DRIPPING from the overhead air duct, right into stall #2. Someone had come in and sprayed the air duct, saturating it, and apparently not having any concern about the dripping chemicals. They also removed the warning sign.
This did not have any effect, as the bees are still flying around in the ladies room. Ilene B. reported two of them to me this morning, at the opening of the air duct, and Christine S. also reported seeing them at just about the same time. I went in, checked it out, and sure enough, there they were.
They have also been reported, by a student, hovering around the inside of a toilet. I am unaware of bees on any other floor at this time. I am unaware of bees in any other location than the two restrooms on the 2nd floor in Building 5.
Jeff, I no longer feel I work in a safe and/or healthy environment.
From an excerpt on molds and health effects (emphasis my own):
Molds can be found wherever there is moisture, oxygen, and something to feed on. In the fall, they grow on rotting logs and fallen leaves, especially in moist, shady areas. In gardens, they can be found in compost piles and on certain grasses and weeds. Molds grow in our homes in moist warm areas like damp basements, closets, and bathrooms, even after the moisture has dried up. Also, molds can grow in places where fresh food is stored, refrigerator drip trays, house plants, humidifiers, garbage pails, mattresses, upholstered furniture, or foam rubber pillows. The worst place that molds can grow, however, is inside wall cavities and flooring of our homes, wherever there may be cellulose materials they can feed on, such as wood, ceiling tiles, or plasterboard, even if they are not visible, and they have sustained water damage at one time or another. This is very common if there has been a plumbing leak or a defective or worn roof.
From an article on health hazards posed by wild mice:
LCMV Transmission: LCMV is shed in the saliva, urine and feces of infected mice. People and other animals become infected through contact with these secretions or by inhalation of dried particles from them. An infected hamster may not show signs of illness, but may shed the virus, transmitting it to people. The virus is not thought to be contagious from person to person, except that pregnant women can transmit the virus to their fetus, which can have serious consequences (see below).
Infestations with wild mice pose a risk of transmission of LCMV to humans as well as pets. Block access to your home and other buildings to mice, keep all food sources inaccessible to wild mice, and use traps. For severe infestations, get a pest control company involved. If you need to clean mouse droppings, soak them with a bleach solution (1/4 c bleach in 1 gallon of water) first and then wipe them up rather than sweeping or vaccuuming, to prevent the virus from becoming airborne.
Mice also have been found to carry hantaviruses.
I’m sure you’re also aware that some people are allergic to bee stings – some severely.
These aren’t imagined or hysterical issues, they’re real health issues and, as such, should be treated seriously. I get the distinct “taste” that some of the folks involved view it as hysterical, or as women unable to cope with creepy/crawly things. While there may be some that are unable to cope with the furry or winged pests, that’s not the problem – the pests are the problem, along with the health risks they pose. The larger problem is the disinterest in the problem that has been displayed to this point.
As if that isn’t enough…
Each day, when student aides from the Print Shop deliver paper, they “toss” it on the floor, causing it to smash up against the air conditioning system, which is heard LOUDLY in my office. I cannot truly articulate how problematic this is, as it always startles me and makes me jump. With the stress of trying to cover this office by myself, my nerves are a bit jazzed up as it is. (I mention this only for informational purposes, as I’ve spoken to Bill G. about this.) Add to that these daily occurrences of smashing the paper against the air duct, faculty and staff constantly disrupting my work with questions about the copier, blown light bulbs in their classrooms, pests, overflowing toilets, students asking for green slips or where their professor’s office is, students standing in my doorway (waiting for class across the hall) cursing and conversing loudly, and you’ve got just a small idea of what my each and every day entails.
I have a condition called RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) and, in recent weeks, it has become markedly worse. This happens when I’m under a lot of stress. We all carry our stress in our nervous system. However, with RLS, as I become more stressed, the condition worsens and is manifested by incessant jerking and lurching of the legs at night. I sleep, but I’m not resting. Sometimes it’s so bad, I can’t even sleep. And, the more I don’t sleep, the less I can deal with stress, and the worse the condition becomes. It’s sort of a self-feeding thing. Severe exhaustion and/or stress can then exacerbate the MS, which has been in remission for almost 14 years now.
I’m already taking psychotropic meds along with blood pressure meds to alleviate the most problematic issues that stem largely from stress here at work. However, there’s only so far that Prozac will keep the monster at bay, if you know what I mean! :-)
I need help beyond the help that I can get from my physician, though. I need your help to light a fire under people to get them interested in resolving the issues over here, not masking the symptoms. Spraying the air duct was nothing more than masking the symptom. Having Building Services extract water from my carpet is merely masking the symptom. Setting traps for mice only masks the symptoms.
I usually try not to present problems without offering solutions, but I’m at a loss here. I can only do so much and, short of climbing up into the air duct myself to hunt down and eliminate the bee’s nest, and short of climbing through every nook and cranny in this building to find mice, I’ve done all I can. I don’t think there are people in this college, especially Facilities, that can say the same thing with any real conviction.
Some of these problems we can fix immediately, all it would really take is for people to actually do something. Some problems, I know, will take time. But inaction won’t solve these problems and, from my perspective, inaction seems to be the modality most used for problem solving around here. I shouldn’t have to send you these kinds of messages.
Anything you can do to help would be tremendously appreciated. Thanks for your time
I cc'd the Director of HR, Safety and Hazard Prevention Office, my boss, his boss, and the union president.
I got a reply from the HR Director that simply said "I shall arrange a meeting with Jeff ASAP and we move toward a course of action. I'll keep you updated."
I got a reply from the VP that simply said "Pat, I will read this over to night and get back to you soon. Jeff"
I then got another note from the HR Director that said "Jeff has already begun the process of setting the meeting. I'll keep you informed."
D'ya think I rang some bells today? I mean, after all, I already have the one lawsuit against the college, perhaps they're concerned about more litigation?
Or maybe, just maybe, they actually care.........