Rye fighting losing battle with pests

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Some buildings on campus are overrun by rodents and insects scurrying around offices, classrooms and Senate meetings. News Editor Mariana Ionova investigates Ryerson’s resident critters

Mice scamper through the hallways of the Podium building. Rats roam around Esso, tunneling through the fence in hopes of sneaking in the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre. Cockroaches dart through the first floor of the Library building and sneak in cracks and crevices.

According to documents obtained by the Eyeopener through a freedom of information request, persistent and escalating pest control issues in several Ryerson buildings have been plaguing faculty, staff and students for years.

The university spends $22,000 annually on campus pest control and staff from Orkin Canada PCO Services is on campus every Friday, checking mouse traps and laying down rat poison but pests still lurk around campus.

“It’s not to say it isn’t a problem or it is zero, but I would suggest that it is by and large under control, that it is not too serious,” said Ryerson President Sheldon Levy. “We should be aiming for perfection — I doubt we’ll ever get perfection but you should have that as your goal.”

Tonga Pham, director of Campus Planning and Sustainability, said in an email that, although eliminating pests is impossible, the university puts “constant effort” into fighting infestation.

“In an urban setting such as ours it is nearly impossible to ‘completely eradicate’ pests on campus, therefore we also respond to concerns by taking action as quickly as possible once an issue is reported,” she wrote.

But, even with control measures in place, some buildings on campus have been experiencing pest problems for years. The South Bond Building [SBB] at 105 Bond St. requested pest control services from CPS several times since August 2010 because mice droppings were found.

The problem is still ongoing, according to Gabe Nespoli, research operations coordinator at the psychology department, which is housed in the SBB. He has been working in the building for four years and mice — in varying numbers — have been present for the better part of his time there.

“It comes and goes,” he said. “I think maybe with the time of year.”

Nespoli said staff routinely finds mouse droppings on the ground and some desks in the building. He said some students are unwilling to work in one of the labs where mouse droppings are regularly found.

Although it doesn’t bother Nespoli too much to find droppings in the building, he is worried at times about the cleanliness of the SBB. “I mean, it’s kind of gross,” he said.

Although PCO pest control technicians come by the building whenever staff members request a check, he said the traps they set do not seem to permanently deter the mice.

“They keep coming back so I don’t know how effective (the measures) have been,” Nespoli said.

But Pham responded that results are usually not immediate.

“When a concern is identified by building users responsive action is taken immediately, however it can take some time for this action to have a positive effect.”

Staff and faculty on the second and third floors of Eric Palin Hall were also plagued by mice last year and staff emailed CPS a total of 22 times to report mice sightings and mouse droppings between Jan. 13, 2010 and Aug. 16, 2011.

Lynn Reynolds, mechanical engineering administrative coordinator, sent several emails urging CPS to send a pest control expert to the department’s second floor EPH offices last December. Even though inspections were done regularly, the problem persisted.

“But it was never more than one at a time every few days or once a week,” said Reynolds.

The problem worsened during the university’s holiday break, when pest control was not inspecting. After Ryerson reopened, measures were taken and the mice were cleared until April, when staff reported mice sightings again, according to emails addressed to CPS. The problem was resolved after that, said Reynolds.

“We haven’t seen another one since then,” she said. But she still keeps her food in a sealed plastic bin under her desk.

Even though pest control staff does routine checks once a week, some buildings have had to wait for extermination for more than half a year. The Theatre School first reported signs of termite damage to the west wall of Room 101 in September 2010.

A pest control technician investigated the problem but, in February 2011, the school emailed CPS to say nothing had been done since the initial visit and termites were continuing to eat away the walls of the classroom. One staff member emailed jokingly that, if action is not taken soon, the university “might need to build a new Theatre School.”

Finally, an exterminator was brought in late April 2011, which cost the university $1,800.

But Pham said the wait was because the termite treatment is most effective in the spring.

‘The most effective, and least invasive, treatment for termites involves ground injections that are required at the exterior of the building,” she said in an email. “These treatments are less effective in the winter, and cannot be done when the ground is frozen.”

Levy said, although the ideal scenario is no pests at all, the university is doing its best to control the situation on campus.

“Other than bringing in the experts and doing what you can, I can’t think of anything else you can do.”

Rye’s worst offenders

Here are some of the buildings with the most unwelcome campus pets

Eric Palin Hall

Faculty and staff in the School of Social Work were complaining that “mice [were] marching in the third floor of EPH” since January 2010. In November, staff continued to email CPS, saying “we continue having mice running around our office and disrupting our work.” But some staff members were not as harsh towards the critters. One wrote an email to custodial staff, saying there was a “cute mouse scampering around.”

Podium

Since January 2010, staff in the basement and first floor of the building was complaining about finding mouse droppings in offices and seeing mice in the staff lounge area. One staff member even reported seeing a “pretty brave mouse run across the floor during a Senate meeting in POD 250” on Nov. 3, 2010. Traps were set but, in July 2011, CPS was still receiving emails about the issue.

South Bond

Staff at the South Bond building were plagued by mice April 2010. By September, psychology chair and dean of arts Jean Paul Boudreau sent an email to CPS asking for more powerful pest control than the “small chemical traps that seem to have little to no impact.” In his email, he wrote the problem is “getting substantially wors[e]” and “the problem is becoming a health hazard to many of our people.”

Kerr Hall West

Kerr Hall West tops the charts for its diversity of pests. Staff in the building reported spotting numerous mice, a “foot-long” rat, and a cloud-like fly infestation in the men’s washroom. One complaint to CPS also said there was a silverfish problem under the mats and around the lockers in the Pool Office. Another email said that mice were running around the Health Centre on the ground floor of the building.

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