Unprecedented rain leads to mold damage in Bergeron

Bobby Grady/Health & Environment Editor/rgrady@mail.smcvt.edu

This past August, the Bergeron Wellness Center suffered mold damage due to unprecedented levels of rain in Vermont. The mold forced the staff to temporarily move their offices to townhouse 104 and the academic enrichment commons in the library. There is extensive work being done to remediate the mold problem.  

Joel Ribout, the director of facilities, has been a part of the process to repair Bergeron since August. 

Sign outside townhouse 104 with information about hours of the Bergeron Wellness Center.

“There was mold in the building so we decided to get some analysis done and there were mold spores in the air,” Ribout said. “9 times out of 10 they come back just fine. We see it, we clean it up but this time it came back elevated. This is when we decided to do something serious with this building and that is when we made the decision to shut it down” 

Once this decision was made, work began to restore Bergeron as a safe and usable building. 

“That involved ripping out anything soft,” Ribout said. “This includes carpet and soft furniture.” 

Once everything was ripped out, an extensive cleaning process began. 

“PuroClean came in and did a thorough cleaning of the entire building,” Ribout said. “They bring in dehumidifiers and they bring in air scrubbers to remove the spores from the air. Then it is actually just wiping down walls and furniture.”   

This is not the first-time mold has been found inside Bergeron. It sits on a concrete slab which makes it easier for water to get in the building. 

The front door of Bergeron Wellness Center while it is still under construction.

“Because it sits on a slab, there is nothing underneath and once you rip up the carpet that’s where the spores sit,” said Ben Duffy, environmental health and laboratory safety manager.   

“With increased humidity and increased rainfall there is a higher water table underneath the ground and the moisture soaks up into the slabs and there is no basement to soak up into,” Duffy continued.  

One of the most common places to find indoor mold is on a wet carpet, so the carpet is coming out. 

“We’re going to put down a luxury vinyl plank,” Ribout said. “Not hardwood, definitely not carpet but a luxury vinyl plank that we are starting to put in everywhere around campus.” 

“We are also looking into the HVAC system to get better airflow through the building,” Ribout continued. “The final step is we are looking to add dehumidification to the HVAC system.”  

The Bergeron staff has faced many challenges, but is working to overcome them. 

“I do really feel like the care is still happening,” said Kathy Butts, the director of mental health services. “It’s been interesting to see how we can still collaborate with each other. We’re on the phone, we’re texting, we’re checking in and I think it’s been pretty smooth.” 

Butts was concerned with maintaining privacy and anonymity for students.  

“I think sometimes students like to go to Bergeron because you go over and you don’t really know why people are there,” Butts said. “Everyone is there to get care. In terms of the actual care the students are getting once they’re in the office, I don’t think it’s any different.”  

These challenges are making Butts and the Bergeron staff wonder how they can provide care differently. 

“It is definitely making me think about maintaining a space outside of Bergeron,” said Butts. “We’ve thought about that before but having this experience has made me see more clearly how it can happen.” 

As of now, there are no plans in place to keep the temporary spaces. 

Ribout is hopeful that the Bergeron staff can be back in the building at the end of the month.