The broadcasting studio of campus radio station CHSR-FM is currently in precautionary quarantine due to discovery of mould last week.
Staff returned to their offices in the Student Union Building on Jan. 6 only to find fallen ceiling tiles and a black mould-like substance growing on the roof underneath.
Mark Kilfoil, program director of CHSR, believes it was the near-record high temperatures (9.5 °C) that led to the structural collapse and subsequent discovery of the mould.
“The temperature inversion caused a lot of melting to occur, and that caused some water damage internally, which caused some of the ceiling panels to fall off,” Kilfoil said.
As soon as the fungal growth was discovered, building staff immediately jumped into action. According to Becky Sullivan, SUB director, facilities management was on the scene within 15 minutes and promptly isolated the area for testing and cleaning.
The exact substance was unknown at the time of publication.
While black mould, also known as stachybotrys chartarum, is itself not poisonous, inhalation of the spores by those with a mould allergy can lead to serious respiratory problems, including asthma attacks.
Kilfoil cautioned against leaping to conclusions.
“It’s described as black mould, but almost all mould looks like black mould. So really at this point we’re just being very cautious.”
Luckily, it seems that few people have been exposed. Due to the holiday break, the CHSR offices have been vacant for approximately three weeks – the typical incubation time for most moulds, according to Kilfoil. While staff did go into the affected studio for an inspection to assess the damage, and then subsequently to remove all electronic equipment as a precautionary measure, it is not believed that they were there long enough to pose a health risk.
Kifoil praised UNB’s quick response to the crisis, pointing out the cooperation of SUB staff and facilities management in containing any fungal growth, even bringing in dehumidifiers from Saint John when not enough could be found locally.
“They’ve been fantastic, actually,” he said. “They’ve really stepped up and helped us, as soon as we needed them.”
Given the age of the Student Union Building, and the offices of CHSR in particular, this incident raises concerns about how carefully the aging facility is being maintained. While Sullivan blamed the ice build-up and subsequent water leak, Kilfoil was more forthright.
“Well, we are an older wing of the building,” he said. “And mould can be one of those things that can be difficult to detect – unfortunately it takes something like the ceiling falling off to notice it. But mould is one of those things that can happen very quickly, so it was the perfect storm of circumstances more so than any sort of neglect.”