Columbia Housing Authority fights bed bugs in Paquin Tower

by nobugsonme on November 23, 2008 · 4 comments

in bed bug prep, bed bug treatment, bed bugs, bed bugs in public housing, money, new york

This article from the Columbia Tribune explores what it takes for a public housing agency to fight bed bugs in a building designated for people with mental and/or physical disabilities.

The problem at Paquin Towers was first detected in March and has escalated since then, with 10% of the buildings 200 units already having been treated. At first, they were being treated one by one, but the CHA has discovered this is not enough where bed bugs are concerned.

Since [March], the housing authority has treated 20 units for the bugs, [Columbia Housing Authority CEO Phil Steinhaus] said. At first, the infestations were discovered and treated one by one, but the CHA now is treating six heavily infested units. Several features of Paquin Tower make the problem tough to tackle.

“What we do know, they are spreading through chases, or service-duct areas between apartments for wiring and plumbing,” Steinhaus said. “Air comes in under doorways, and there is ventilation in the ceilings of bathrooms. That’s how you get air exchange. We can’t go in and seal an apartment up or fog it or bug-bomb it.”

Unfortunately, treating the entire building is not an option. Steinhaus says it costs $2500 to treat one unit (which presumably involves assistance with prep, as well as fumigation of belongings in a truck, and pesticide spraying in the unit — all strategies mentioned in the article). This would amount to 1/2 a million dollars to treat the entire building.

Dealing with bed bug prep and treatment can be disorienting and upsetting for anyone, but for residents of Paquin Tower, these effects can be dangerously disruptive.

“With some of our folks, we have to be very sensitive about their routines,” Steinhaus said. “If they get something that throws their life into turmoil, it can be hard to get back to an even keel again.”

Charles Dudley, a Paquin resident for about 4½ years, said the small units that can resemble dorm rooms lend themselves to clutter. “In this building, there are residents with varying degrees of psychological disorders – hoarders, people with depression, anxiety – and they have accumulated a lot of stuff,” he said. “It’s important to them. How do you determine who should get rid of what? That’s going to be a hard issue to come across.”

Nevertheless residents are being told they must clean and de-clutter by December 17th, when inspections begin. Those who do not comply (with assistance if needed) will have their leases terminated.

Removing bed bugs from a high-rise, where bed bugs may be much more widespread than is already known, will be no easy task, especially given the challenges of the building’s design. The first step is knowledge, and it does sound like the management are aware of the difficulties of treatment, and prepared to support residents who need help.

It is also distressing to think that some residents with mental and/or physical disabilities may be evicted because they resist de-cluttering, prep, and treatment (even with assistance). It’s clear that requiring compliance is essential for the well-being of the rest of the residents, but I do hope support and counseling is being provided to resistant and non-compliant residents, so they can understand the importance of this, and avoid being evicted.

Thanks to Charles Dudley for pointing me to this article in a comment today. More from the Paquin Towers Residents’ blog.

1 Charles Dudley Jr November 24, 2008 at 5:56 am

To your question in the article yes most residents do have doctors,councilors and case workers. Also many who are elderly have in home health care workers but as we all know there are good in home health care workers and there are bad in home health care workers as well as the middle line in home health care workers too. The latter can be a problem.

Here is my view if this de-bugging is to take place from my past experience in the construction industry and having talked to many professional bug people:
The logistics of this have been weighted,calculated and gone over and suggested again and again but by all of the calculations in order to gas the entire building properly which means you have to:

Move each resident out and remember some are bed ridden or cannot move as easily as you think

You have to move all of their possessions out and into a storage facility and can you imagine renting 200 storage units all in the same complex?

You have to house those residents plus their service pets somewhere while this entire operation is going on.

You have to go in and completely seal up every unit which would be a monumental undertaking

Seal every air exhaust port in the entire building including the entire roof

Then you would probably want to ventilate all of the walls and floor spaces in each unit by drilling holes to pump in gas as well since these little pests live in the walls and floors

Then you could begin to gas the entire building and only then. That is if you want to do the job properly.

Then after the entire building has been gassed comes the monumental task of going into every apartment and hall way and doing an entire wipe down,mopping and cleaning of each unit so that the residual gas residue did not come into any contact with anybody it should not. Remember alot of the residents also have severe asthma problems.

*Then if you have everybody out reason would state as well that you go strip and wax every floor in every single unit since you just emptied all of them out anyway and while you are at it paint as well plus fix all of the holes you drilled for gassing purposes.

Then after all of that you have to move all of your residents back in and make sure that they can put all of their belongings back into their units and before that happens you would want a “Bed Bug Sniffing Dog” to come and sniff each and every resident’s belongings to be sure that no bed bugs came back in unknowingly.

Then after all of this work to do this properly you are still not guaranteed that all of the bed bugs in the entire building are killed.

Now please go figure out the total cost it would take to do all of the above per unit and times by 200 units and show us your figures but I can assure you that it might even be over the half million dollar mark that Phil Steinhaus gave in his story to the paper if you include the *floors being redone and the paint as well.

Believe me when I say this has been looked into seriously on this issue.

Hell for all of that money you might as well just drop the building to the ground,rebuild it 20 floors instead of 15,install staggered level elevators,outside fire escapes,new back up generators,solar panels,all new central air pumps,new in unit intercom system,new close circuit security TV, and totally upgrade everything you could think of.

Ya gotta remember this building was completed in 1973.
There is another thread about this issue going here if anybody wants to come chime in and back me up on all of this as we have alot of people who think this is not a serious issue:

I could use some back up on this by anybody here who deals with this on a daily basis.

2 Charles Dudley Jr November 27, 2008 at 2:59 pm

As an update to this:

A new pest control contract bidding process has been instituted by the Columbia Housing Authority looking for a company who not only kills the bed bugs but also does all of the moving out and moving back in of residents personal belongings.

The problem has just come to the point since first discovered in March of this year that they cannot keep up with it. So they call in the real heavy guns to deal with the entire problem.

Residents are hoping this will help to get all of this under control as son as possible so they can get back to a somewhat normal way of living once again.

3 Charles Dudley Jr December 10, 2008 at 4:13 pm

Update: The issue is still being worked on and new tighter restrictions are being implemented to keep residents from potentially spreading these bugs to their neighbors or other units by mandatory orders of making the infected residents either stay in their unit,only being able to go outside or to do laundry on certain days posted and to not be going to other’s apartments or to other floors with in the building.

Also the elimination of excess clutter a.k.a. mass amounts of extra furniture and belongings to be removed from the residents units due to the bug people cannot get to the walls to effectively spray each unit and for any and all EMS personnel to be able to enter each unit with a gurney. 50% of the floor space in each unit must be accessible. No exceptions.

Also if these new guidelines are broken then lease termination proceedings are also being looked into as the Columbia Housing Authority considers this a Health and Safety Issue that does effect all residents with in their building.

We are son to know just who our new pest control company will be as the bids are supposed to be opened later today or tomorrow morning.

And the war goes on.

4 Winter Falcons January 27, 2009 at 8:27 pm

The Paquin Towers

In the silent memories of those who have in their passing left wonderful memories and legacies, we salute you. A comment from a humble soul….all of you listening….Refrain from using toxic insecticides, filled with extremely dangerous and harmful chemicals. Visit: Earth Green Earth Blue Waters and make a change. The difference between saving a life from chemical exposure is as simple as using a different Bug spray made of 90% water,non flammable, non toxic, can be used on fabrics, in kitchens around food, in eating establishments, lunch rooms, in the bedrooms….please make a difference…send an email stating you are from Paquin Towers demanding a change.

Thank You

[Editor’s note: Winter Falcons, please read our Terms and Conditions of use, which forbid this sort of comment spam pushing products. We removed your second, identical post. I allow this one to remain because the commentary which follows may be educational for many.

To everyone else, I have left the name of the product here and the link out so you can certainly read up on it for yourself.

While we would all warmly embrace a natural, inexpensive, green way of killing bed bugs, we are realistic about how hardy these pests are. As of this date, your website apparently makes no claims as to its efficacy against bed bugs. It certainly does not, at this time, offer scientific data to back up such claims. We would like to see this information before we would use such a product.

An effective bed bug spray needs to be proven to be more than a contact killing spray (= a spray that kills bed bugs you shoot directly). This is because it is so very rare to come face to face with a bed bug. Unless you have data about the mechanical or residual effectiveness of a product, it probably is not going to solve your bed bug problem. Unless you have data about the effectiveness of it in killing bed bugs sprayed directly, I would not recommend it as a contact killer.

The good news is, there are green, non-chemical ways of eliminating bed bugs. Dry vapor steam, diatomaceous earth, and thermal treatments are all options, and we recommend you to get an experienced person to implement them if at all possible. If not, we recommend you do extensive research before using dry vapor steam, dusts, or other products yourself. (The exception is thermal heat, which should only be done by a professional with the right equipment to do the job properly.)

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