Some students who live in Hale Mahana blamed an alleged mold problem for illnesses, as well as being relocated to other units in the building during midterms and finals week.
“I have a hard time sleeping,” Marcus Patterson, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa senior, said. “When I do sleep, I wake up with my eyes on fire.”
Patterson, a double major in political science and economics, heard other students were having mold issues, along with leaks from the shower heads and other concerns regarding washers and dryers not working on many floors in the apartment complex.
“My roommate and I made a complaint about mold on 16 of February after the first outbreak of mold was found on my mini blender that day,” Patterson said. “We were told to move out within a few days which was midterm week for me.”
Soon after locating the first sign of mold in the unit, Patterson found mold in odd places such as in his glasses case, on a tapestry hung in his room and on his Gohonzon, a scroll containing a chant that aids Buddhist practitioners in prayer and meditation.
“Everyday I pray and place my face close to my Butsudan which contains my Gohonzon and for me, the mold problem is mentally debilitating and disruptive to my routine,” Patterson said. “I’ve had to put my spiritual practice on hold.”
Hale Mahana, a privately-operated student housing location, was opened in August 2018, complete with 191 units, a fitness center and a rooftop terrace. The building also has four food and beverage retailers on the first floor including well-known food chains such as Raising Cane’s and Pieology Pizzeria.
“I’m not too sure, I haven’t came across any mold,” Raising Cane’s Chief Manager Neil Agliam said. “We clean our store every single day.”
While these allegations have been brought to the attention of Hale Mahana manager LaNiece Dillon, they have not been clarified and management was unwilling to be interviewed about the issue.
Instead, students came to discuss their experience.
“I moved in last August and started feeling tired, forgetful and would wake up with a stuffy nose and irritated eyes,” UH Mānoa junior Rudy Ramirez said. “I’m surprised about this issue because of how new the building is.”
Ramirez went to the doctor to see if what he was feeling was related to mold that was recently found in his bedroom, but doctors said he would need to get a chest X-ray as well as blood tests to confirm. Ramirez wasn’t able to afford the tests due to a rent payment issue with Hale Mahana and lack of medical insurance.
“I’m devastated and frightened,” Ramirez said. “No one has notified me under my door or mailbox, or via calls or email regarding the mold removal or when I can be relocated. I’m not sleeping or staying in my room for long periods of time.”
Ramirez said he has not yet filed any illness claims, but that he will not be recommending Hale Mahana to other friends for student housing.
Patterson is looking to be compensated for $7K-8K worth of damages from the building.
“I really hope I can find someone to help me, it has been too much trying to fight this on my own,” Patterson said. “I am trying to finish school and be vice-chair of external affairs for ASUH and I hope reaching out will be an aid to lead me in the right direction.”
The Department of Health has been notified and has scheduled an assessment of Hale Mahana for June 6.