Bayou residents free to return pending positive air quality tests
Residents of Bayou Oaks began moving back into their dorms Monday, after Brays Bayou overflowed and flooded the first floor of Bayou Oaks the morning of Aug. 27, displacing all students housed there.
Bayou Oaks was the only UH-owned residential building to experience flooding, according to a tweet from the University. As of Monday, there are sample air quality tests being run through UH Facilities Planning and Construction to ensure that remaining residents can return to a safe environment, said the Executive Director of Student Housing and Residential Life Don Yackley.
Yackley said residents can return to their rooms if the air quality tests yield positive results, meaning the rooms are habitable.
“As a precaution, because so much water was involved, they’re doing some basic sample air quality testing to make sure that the air is good and that mold hasn’t grown as a result, before we’re able to let folks back in,” Yackley said. “We’re all expecting those tests to be good, but out of an abundance of caution we just have to make sure-and get the final word from campus safety.”
All buildings in Bayou Oaks were cleared Monday except Townhouses 10, 11, 13 and 15, said Yackley. Another air quality test was conducted inside the uncleared townhouses Tuesday.
“We’ve been working with facilities such as campus safety, the fire marshals and contractors to get Bayou Oaks up and running as soon as possible,” Yackley said.
The majority of Bayou Oaks’ damage was due to flooding from the bayou, Yackley said, while minor damage was incurred from wind and rain. The worst of the damage occurred in Townhouses 9 through 15, he said.
“Even when we let folks back into Bayou, there will be construction and work that continues for two to six more weeks, depending on the individual situations,” Yackley said.
Whether students unable to reside at Bayou Oaks during the construction will receive a discount on their rent will be unknown until possibly next week, Yackley said, but the issue is being looked at. He said displaced students are not being charged to live temporarily at the Quadrangle, where the University initially evacuated all Bayou Oaks residents who remained on campus during the storm.
“Our focus right now is really about getting Bayou up,” Yackley said. “That’s our full attention. It’s our highest priority, so we haven’t really been doing anything else but that.”
Electrical engineering junior, and resident assistant for Townhouses 2, 6 and 10, Sean White said he was a part of the mandatory relocation to the Quads Aug. 27. White lives in Townhouse 13, one of the homes still closed to residents.
“It’s a little frustrating, but at the same time it’s understandable,” White said. “I understand that the school is trying to be as safe as possible. If you fail an air-quality test, it shouldn’t be a livable place anyway — it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
White said he believes the air-quality test failed in Townhouses 10, 11, 13 and 15 due to all the garbage left behind when students evacuated. Similarly, Yackley said the failed tests could possibly have been the result of damp clothes, rugs and garbage left behind in the flooding.
Yackley said they expect the results to be positive after they clean the community spaces in the uncleared townhouses and retest Tuesday.
“Our house did not have as much damage as some of the others I saw,” White said. “I definitely think 14 and 15 had way more damage than we did.”
Once the waters went down last Wednesday, all residents were able to be escorted by UHPD collect some of their belongings from Bayou Oaks, White said.
White said he hopes to move back in Tuesday, or possibly Wednesday, but UH has provided all the Bayou Oaks residents with everything they have needed in the meantime.
“We are taken care of by the University,” White said. “The only complaints I have is that it’s taken a while to move back in, but that’s not their fault.”