Bed Bugs Reported Anew at Hempfield Towers

TribLive.com
Thursday, May 24, 2012

A mandatory inspection of all 202 apartments in Hempfield Towers could be initiated as early as next week as Westmoreland County Housing Authority officials work to stave off a reported growing bedbug infestation at the low-income senior high-rise.

Executive Director Mike Washowich said four residents on Wednesday reported that bedbugs were in their homes. In March, the authority confirmed that as many as seven apartments were infested and needed remediation for the nuisance insects.

"We're going to put together a plan to conduct a mandatory visual inspection of every unit in the building," Washowich said.

During the March outbreak, the authority inspected just the apartments suspected to have bedbugs. Those units were treated by in-house authority workers and a professional exterminator.

But the bedbugs have returned.

Yesterday's reports of bedbugs need to be confirmed, something that Washowich said will happen within the next several days. Still, authorities are moving ahead with remediation.

Washowich said the authority will continue to work to rid the high-rise of bedbugs, which he blamed on the transient nature of the insect and not the conditions at the apartment building.

The authority will again bring in an outside exterminator and change its eradication method.

"We are continuing to have an all-out assault on any unit reported to have bedbugs. Bedbugs are a tough issue. There is a level of infestation if we get just one unit. From our standpoint, we won't step away from doing everything to rid ourselves of this disgusting insect," Washowich said.

The proposed full-building inspection is a change in attitude for the authority, which in March declined to inspect all apartments saying that it would be obvious if the insects had moved to other units based on reports from residents.

Bedbugs are small insects that feed on human blood and do not spread disease, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Bedbug infestations occur when the insects move via furniture, bedding, luggage or clothing. Bites on a person are usually evidenced by itchy welts.

Heath Department spokesman Tom Hostetter said yesterday the state does not track bedbug outbreaks.

"They are plenty disgusting, but at this point in time there is no proof they cause any disease," Hostetter said.

Washowich said no other housing authority building has reported the presence of bedbugs this year.