An entire Fort Worth Housing Authority building in Fort Worth, Texas has been battling bed bugs for a year — a process that has cost about 1/2 a million dollars. And now every single one of the 219 tenants is being relocated permanently to new housing, WFAA reports.
For a year, the housing authority has tried to end the infestation by doing everything from ripping out the carpet to paying for a steam treatment.
More than half a million dollars later, the bed bugs have not surrendered.
Social workers have begun the process of moving Hunter Plaza‘s 219 residents, giving them Section 8 vouchers for alternative housing.
I was glad to see that efforts are being made so that the primarily elderly and disabled tenants do not take bed bugs with them to their next homes — a factor that too often seems to be overlooked under such circumstances:
Every item is taken through a “rapid freeze” process before it can leave the property.
The 36-year-old building will be fumigated once all residents have left. A housing authority spokesman said it is too soon to say what will become of Hunter Plaza.
I hope that the exiting tenants are also being educated about how to avoid bed bugs in future, so that they have a chance of staying bed bug free.
And we can hope that by “fumigation,” they do not mean “treatment with traditional bed bug sprays and powders.”
This kind of bed bug treatment can take many visits before a problem is eliminated. If no humans are living in the apartments, it may be nearly impossible to get bed bugs to come out and cross poison and die. They may even harbor until the building is put to use again.
True fumigation with Vikane (sulfuryl fluoride) gas, or thermal treatments, done properly, is a one-shot solution.
Getting the next set of tenants educated about how to avoid bed bugs in future is a bit more difficult.
And the bottom line is this: bed bugs do not spontaneously generate in public housing. They ride in on people or possessions; they can infest any type of home (or other locations such as schools, workplaces, cafes and cinemas). They will infest any type of home — and families in every income bracket.
So unless Fort Worth has plans to relocate everyone in town, they need to do more to educate citizens about how to avoid and detect bed bugs, and help them get good prompt inspections and treatment when bed bugs are suspected or discovered.
Detected early, bed bugs can be stopped. However, when left to spread indiscriminately, an entire building can become unliveable.
Watch the videos below for all the gory details.
Update (4/4/2010): The Star-Telegram reports that the “fumigation” would involve clearing and sealing the building, suggesting that it is indeed a gas fumigation which is to take place.
This article also clarifies that residents showered in portable showers outside after leaving their apartments the last time, en route to their new homes. Let’s hope the moving trucks themselves were treated as cautiously as the people and possessions!
Also, the article suggests that some residents feel the city may be trying to move them out of the desirable downtown area.