Student groups investigate mould issues in Louis Riel

Louis Riel provides housing for SFU graduate students and their families.

Concerns have been brought to the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Advocacy Committee over the fact that students in residence are living with mould; this has been a persistent problem at the university over the past several years.

The problems are particularly concerning in the Louis Riel Building, which provides housing to graduate students and their families. Both the SFSS and the Graduate Student Society have taken a keen interest in the issue.

Students and university staff alike have raised complaints, including many reports regarding moulds growing on walls and those moulds becoming airborne.

According to Darwin Binesh, SFSS VP external relations and the Advocacy Committee chair, members from the SFSS and Student Council, as well as representatives from Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU), held a meeting in order to come up with possible solutions and strategies for the issues in Louis Riel Building.

The first step that the Advocacy Committee discussed was to raise awareness of the situation amongst students and to bring the matter up to the university as well.

“One thing that we have been looking to do as a society is to speak to the City of Burnaby,” said Binesh. The SFSS plans to approach municipal politicians regarding the issue to see if there is an opportunity for funding for the improvement of Louis Riel Building.

When asked what the SFU administration was doing to address these concerns, Terry Waterhouse, SFU chief safety officer, said, “We are in the process of doing a full building assessment [on a room by room basis regarding moulds and indoor air quality], and we are expecting the [building] report to be finished by January 2015.”

As soon as the report has been released, Waterhouse said that they will make a determination on what type of improvements need to take place in Louis Riel.

Currently, if a severely damaged condition is reported, they have to relocate the occupants and initiate repair for the specific room.

“We are currently relocating the students who are impacted by the bad condition, and we will continue to do that until the repair is finished, and we would not bring new students in until the spaces in residences were remediated,” noted Waterhouse.

Even though the report is due in January 2015, Waterhouse emphasized that building assessment is an ongoing process.

With regards to financing necessary repairs, Waterhouse explained that the money will have to come from the university budget, and that it would be up to the Finance and Administration department to allocate these funds.

Concerns over mould in residence have been raised over the past two decades, and are due in part to a lack of maintenance by the university. There has been an ongoing discussion surrounding the possibility of toxic mould in other buildings on Burnaby campus, such as the Education Building and Robert C. Brown Hall.

Although the university has examined some of these issues previously, the administration is now taking a closer look at Louis Riel in particular. “This is the first time that we have to look at the entire building,” said Waterhouse. He explained that, in the past, there were some issues about moisture causing mould in other buildings, but the issues were handled on a one-by-one basis.

Waterhouse noted, “When we have reports and concerns, we respond to those as thoroughly as we can, and we have a very comprehensive set of methods that we use to determine the scope of the problem, and make sure we remediate [it]. We do not leave those spaces if they are problematic and we respond to those immediately whether [it is one room or the entire building].”

When asked what students can do, Waterhouse said, “We really encourage the students living in the residences to make sure that they are aware that they should be reporting the concerns they have about the quality of their rooms, especially regarding moulds, and we will be responding quickly.”