Battle Against Bed Bugs Continues in Weymouth Public Housing Building
Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Housing authority officials are turning up the heat on a stubborn bedbug problem in an East Weymouth public housing building as tenants continue to blast the authority over its response to the situation.

The authority's board of commissioners voted Tuesday to spend $8,000 to hire an exterminator to heat affected apartments at Pope Towers to 140 degrees, which should kill the pests. The housing authority owns and manages the property.

It is the latest attempt to get rid of the blood-sucking bugs after exterminators went through the 60-apartment Water Street building with a dog specially trained to detect bedbugs on April 3. The dog detected bedbugs in 12 apartments that had already been treated with chemicals and in five that had not been treated, said Ed Boyle, the housing authority's maintenance supervisor.

"We believe we are taking what we hope is the final step," authority Executive Director Michael Flaherty said. "We're taking it to the next level."

Flaherty said the heat treatments are due to begin Thursday. All of the affected apartments, as well as the ones on either side and above and below them, will be treated. Tenants will have to leave those apartments for about six hours during the procedure.

Several Pope Towers residents who attended the meeting said they were happy about the heat treatment but criticized the authority for not being able to eliminate the problem sooner.

"This is horrendous on so many levels," said Bettye Lamson, a Pope Towers resident. "I feel it was mishandled right from the very beginning."

Lamson said she doesn't have bedbugs in her apartment, but that her sister, who also lives in the building, does.

Some residents also criticized Flaherty for his comments that appeared in a Patriot Ledger story last month saying "paranoia" often goes along with concerns over bedbugs and that those concerns are sometimes unfounded.

"We were really upset at the inflammatory remarks labeling us as paranoid," Pope Towers resident Billy MacDonald said. "No one is paranoid. They just want this fixed."

MacDonald said his apartment doesn't have bedbugs.

Flaherty said the authority has acted quickly and aggressively to address the bedbug problem.

"I'm sympathetic to the concerns, as I have been all along," he said after the meeting. "I hope it will be eradicated as quickly as possible."

Housing authority board of commissioners Chairman Donald Sheehan declined to comment after the meeting.

Member Joyce Jung said the authority is committed to getting rid of the bugs.

"Whatever it takes, let's do it," she said.