A bedbug problem may still be lingering in the federally subsidized senior housing buildings operated by the North Bergen Housing Authority, but because residents are charged for extermination, some of them may be keeping it quiet, sources said.
This can only lead to a greater infestation, they said.
After publishing an article in September 2009 about bedbug complaints in the 308-unit Cullum building, which is a North Bergen senior/disabled housing building, the Hudson Reporter received several anonymous complaints that the problem had also spread to the Lawler Towers, another senior residence.
“We’re really happy with the way it’s been working out.” – Diana Peirano-Ingvaldsen
They are difficult to exterminate because they can reproduce up to 500 times in a lifetime. They also can go without food for up to 18 months.
More than 50 years ago, the widespread use of DDT caused many to believe that the species had been eradicated in the United States, but once the pesticide was discontinued, they reemerged.
Many studies are currently being conducted on bedbugs, or cimicidae, and how they thrive in multi-occupancy buildings like hotels, apartments and public housing buildings. The close quarters allow them to spread easily to other dwellings.
North Bergen Housing Authority Executive Director Diana Peirano-Ingvaldsen said last week that the $200 exterminator charge being asked of residents has increased slightly because the NBHA has hired a new, more effective exterminator. Residents whose apartments are exterminated are asked to pay that charge.
Cullum residents who preferred to speak without attribution said that the extermination charge is now in the $300 to $400 range.
In an anonymous complaint received by the Reporter that was addressed to the North Bergen Health Officer Richard Censullo, the writer claimed that the infestation has been allowed to grow exponentially because many of the seniors have been unable to pay the extermination fee.
Censullo did not respond to numerous phone calls in time for publication.
“The NBHA knows very well of these problems, but refuses to pay the $200 estimated fees required – claiming it’s the tenant’s responsibility,” said the complaint.
Peirano-Ingvaldsen said that if a tenant notifies the Housing Authority that he or she is unable to pay, their unit will still be fumigated.
Under New Jersey law, a landlord must deal with a bedbug infestation immediately, but can pass the bill to the tenant.
One person leaving the Cullum last Wednesday who did not want his name used said that his mother is a resident of the building, and while she was not having a bedbug infestation problem, the issue is well-known.
“I think the biggest complaint is that the tenant has to pay for the eradication, and since they didn’t bring them in, they should not be charged,” he said. “I think its $300.”
He said that while he bought a spray that is supposed to deter the insect from entering, the fear of infestation still remains in the building.
Housing authority: problem under control
Peirano-Ingvaldsen said that there was one bedbug “incident” about two weeks ago at the Cullum and another in the Lawler, but that the problem was “pretty much under control.”
She said that the problem at the Cullum is for the most part due to one unit.
“Sporadically, it is going to happen, from what I’ve been hearing from other authorities,” said Peirano-Ingvaldsen. “It’s a very bad situation, but we really don’t have that kind of problem here. We jump right on top of it.”
One resident returning from vacation who spoke without attribution said that she believes that the bedbug problem is under control.
“We’re really happy with the way it’s been working out,” said Peirano-Ingvaldsen.
Fear keeps them quiet
Peirano-Ingvaldsen said that fear is a big part of the problem, and said that some residents, due to the extermination charge, may not be coming forward with their problem.
She said that the exterminator has trained the NBHA employees to check for the critters as well.
“I think some tenants might have felt embarrassed, but we’ve been talking to them,” said Peirano-Ingvaldsen.
Another person leaving the Cullum last week said that she and her sister fear that the bugs could enter her mother’s unit, and while they’ve tried to keep the intruders out by putting ground-up moth crystals at the entrance of the doorway, she admits she doesn’t know how useful their homemade remedy actually is in keeping them out.
While visiting her mother on the 15th floor once, she witnessed the bug first hand.
“I was leaving her house one night and a guy was running down the hall with [a bedbug] in a bottle,” she said. “He was running down the hall screaming that he had to throw everything out.”
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.