Mold Infestation Causes Dorm Evacuations at St. Mary's College

Displaced students housed in hotels and a cruise ship

Hundreds of students at St. Mary's College of Maryland have been forced out of their dorms and now offshore after a health threat was discovered on campus.

College officials detected widespread mold growing along the insulation surrounding air conditioning vents in two of the schools dormitories.  In the interest of students' safety, the living areas have been vacated.

But many students might call their new temporary headquarters an upgrade: a cruise ship docked on the St. Mary's River.

School officials believe that the extremely wet conditions brought by Hurricane Irene and the storms that followed have caused this mold infestation.

At least one student fell ill with respiratory problems, a St. Mary's student told News4.  The 350 students that lived in the dorms have been moved to area hotels, but the school said the logistics of shuttling students back and forth became too complicated.

As an alternative, the Sea Voyager, an independently owned cruise ship, has been sailed up the St. Mary's River to the college's pier.  Around 240 of the displaced students will get to ditch their hotel rooms for the luxury ship on Monday morning.  St. Mary's College says the cost of renting hotel rooms and renting berths aboard the ship is roughly equivalent.

Although some students see the new off-campus housing as a nice adventure, college officials say they are working to clean  the dorms quickly.

"One of the reasons that choose a residential college is so that they don't have to worry about housing and food, and they can concentrate on their studies," college president Joseph Urgo told News4's Jane Watrel.  "We want them to return to that."

Cleanup crews are in the two dormitories now.  According to Urgo, their work could be finished in three weeks.

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