Westmoreland housing authority starts inspections for bedbugs across county – TribLIVE

Every unit in the 16 high-rise buildings under control of the Westmoreland County Housing Authority will be inspected as part of a new initiative to eradicate bedbugs, officials said this week.

Private exterminators will use dogs to sniff out the presence of the biting insects that can cause nuisances to residents, according to Michael Washowich, the authoritys executive director.

There isnt an infestation in our places. We want to be proactive to the bedbug issue, Washowich said.

The authority in recent years has found bedbugs in several of its buildings, including Hempfield Towers.

Late last year, the authority treated units at a housing complex in New Kensington, and this month it received complaints from a Hempfield Towers resident about the potential for bedbugs in the 202-unit low-income and elderly facility.

John Smartnick, 70, a resident at the Hempfield facility, said a dog came into his apartment this week to search for bedbugs. A person affiliated with the extermination staff told Smartnick on Wednesday that dead bedbugs and eggs were found around his mattress.

Bedbug inspections previously were pursued by the authority only after complaints from residents were lodged. The new policy calls for unit-by-unit inspections of all of the authoritys buildings.

Smartnick said officials found a slew of bedbugs in his mattress last year after he submitted a complaint.

(Bedbugs) come in from all over people moving in and moving out, Smartnick said. They got them on their furniture, in boxes. How do we know? We dont know.

Kevin Jones, 56, has lived at Hempfield Towers for a year. He said he also had bedbugs in the past, adding, It was humiliating because they got all over my couch and in my chair. But they sprayed. Other than that, I dont have them now.

Washowich said inspections are designed to identify where bedbugs are present and enable the authority to treat those units to halt potential infestations.

In the last few years, weve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars (treating for bedbugs), Washowich said.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, bedbugs can cause itchy welts on someone who is bitten. The bugs are transient insects that can move from location to location through personal contact.

Its not how clean you are or anything, said Hempfield Towers resident Lisa Molcsan, 55. Anybody can get them.

Hotels, apartment buildings, schools and other public locations, buses, trains and even cruise ships can be infested with bedbugs, according to the health department.

Costs for the inspection program wont be determined until any required eradication efforts are completed, Washowich said.

I just hope they get rid of them, Smartnick said. I hope I dont ever have to see these things again. Im just totally fed up with it like everybody else.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [emailprotected] or via Twitter .

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