Tenants of 575 Ellsworth Street in Bridgeport, Connecticut say they have had bed bugs since May, 2007 (more than a year), according to this Connecticut Post article.
Teresa Bayliss, who has lived in her third-floor apartment for nine years, said the residents have been battling with the insects for more than a year. “Basically, this apartment building, since last May, has had problems with bedbugs,” she said. “I would say since like Easter, things are getting worse.”
That’s far too long to suffer with bed bugs.
One resident took a dangerous and extreme measure:
The problem at the apartment building was so bad that a resident recently decided to take matters into his own hands. Following the advice of a friend, he burned charcoal in his third-floor apartment. But because of the fumes, the building had to be evacuated.
“We were upset, but if you saw the bites on that man, who could blame him?” said Bayliss.
The man got bad advice and did something very unsafe. Looking back, what would have been a safe and rational reaction, instead, is if someone from the building had notified city officials.
According to the article, Warren Blunt, director of environmental health for the city’s Health Department, said,
The department was not aware of the bedbug problem at Ellsworth before last week’s incident, he said.
When the agency does receive complaints, Blunt said, an inspector goes out to confirm that there are bedbugs in the building. “The owner is basically responsible for the establishment. The owner is responsible for hiring an exterminator,” Blunt said. “We allow them up to two weeks. But in this case, we would make a recommendation that they begin immediately,” he said. Criminal penalties may be pursued if a landlord does not act to remedy the problem, Blunt said.
So one lesson here is that residents of Bridgeport with bed bugs should call the Health Department to notify them of the problem, so they can inspect and order treatment. It’s unlikely that residents were aware of this recourse, or someone probably would have called. I hope the Health Department will attempt to advertise this more widely.
Some treatments have already occurred. So far,
Bayliss said the treatments do not appear to be helping. “They had Orkin [pest control company] coming in spurts. I’ve had Orkin come to my apartment once. Other people aren’t getting treated at all,” she said.
But the article says the management is currently ripping out everyone’s carpet and the building supervisor seems to be saying the whole building will have to be treated at least twice. (I would not be surprised if it took more than two treatments spaced no more than two weeks apart.) I hope this treatment is aggressive and thorough and comes swiftly for the tenants, who have suffered for such a long time.
Officials quoted in the article remind us that tenants have to cooperate with preparation and treatment:
The problem is more challenging when tenants are not able, or refuse, to keep their apartments clean and orderly. Bedbugs can travel on people’s clothing or find their way into the apartment next door.
“There are agencies that will offer to come out, that will do the cleaning,” said Blunt. But if people don’t cooperate with the pest eradication efforts, “that’s what makes this compounded, makes this complex.”
As odd as it may sound, we often hear of badly infested buildings where one or more tenants simply don’t want to be inspected. In cases such as this, where the whole building is being inspected, it would not be surprising if the same tenants were not cooperative with preparations or treatment.
This hurts everyone else — both fellow tenants and management.
Those with physical or financial limitations absolutely need help and support in preparing for and undergoing bed bug treatment. But refusing or being non-cooperative is a serious problem: keeping your bed bugs is not an option.