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Thompson Hotel pest remediation project includes heat, chemical treatments

WORTHINGTON -- Downtown Worthington is bound to be a bit noisy and chaotic today and Thursday as a professional crew of pest remediators begin what's scheduled as a several-week eradication project at the Thompson Hotel.

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Pictured is the Thompson Hotel in Worthington. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - Downtown Worthington is bound to be a bit noisy and chaotic today and Thursday as a professional crew of pest remediators begin what’s scheduled as a several-week eradication project at the Thompson Hotel.

The streets and sidewalks surrounding the historic 10th Street building will be closed off as 18 Plunkett’s Pest Control professionals from Minnesota and surrounding states arrive early this morning with electric furnaces, diesel generators and lots of cords to begin tackling the bed bug infestation with thermal remediation technology.

“It will look like an octopus,” said Plunkett’s Pest Control Worthington Area Service Supervisor Ken Vander Veen of the hotel’s appearance during the next two days.

According to Jason Brisson, the city of Worthington’s community and economic development director, the estimated $58,400 pest eradication project was authorized by the city council due to living conditions that pose a health risk, and to rid pests to its own standards as dictated by city ordinance. The pest remediation and roof replacement will be added to the property as assessments, which Brisson said will follow the property through any future ownership. They may be paid off in up to five years at an eight percent interest rate, as dictated by state statute.  

“Eventually the city will get made whole,” Brisson said. “But it’s not entirely sure the city will get its money back right away.”

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Brisson said with the help of Nobles County Public Health officials and the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, tenants were notified last week about the remediation project and how to prepare their units, as well as educated about bed bugs and cockroaches. Pest remediation will be limited to one floor per day, so no tenant will be displaced overnight, Brisson said.

In preparation of today’s heat treatment, Vander Veen said an insecticide dust and liquid residual were applied to structural cracks and crevices so that the bed bugs are trapped inside the unit. Then, beginning this morning, 80 electric furnaces will be on a floor to heat the units and hallways to about 135 degrees fahrenheit - a temperature slightly hotter than what is lethal to all stages of bed bugs (eggs, young and adults). The only way to kill a bed bug egg, Vander Veen added, is with hot temperatures.

The hot temperatures will be maintained for about five hours, and heat technicians will “flip” the contents of the apartment every 30 minutes so that all the furniture, clothing and linen is thoroughly heated.

“Everything has to be hot so bed bugs have no place to hide,” Vander Veen said. “It’s like a tornado runs through the apartment.”

They’ll repeat the same process on the second floor units and hallway on Thursday.

Vander Veen said crews are tackling the bed bug infestation first because they pose more discomfort and stress to people than cockroaches. He added that the problem must also be addressed because the possibility of bed bugs spreading to other locations in the community exists.  

“They’re very good hitchhikers,” he said of what he called the “lazy, nocturnal bug” that hides in articles of clothing or backpacks, rather than attaching to a human host like a tick would. Vander Veen provided the example of a jacket being taken off and hung over a chair in a waiting room - or a backpack hung by other students’ backpacks or jackets - to articulate how bed bugs could spread to other areas and households in the community.

Vander Veen said it’s possible a few cockroaches will be killed during this week’s heat treatment, but bed bug elimination is the focus.

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Cockroaches will be the center attention next week, and Vander Veen said that’s a tougher battle.

“They run fast, hide and can escape the heat,” he said.

Beginning Nov. 14, Plunkett’s will begin baiting the cockroaches and using chemicals to remove the bug.

Vander Veen said the cockroaches will be confined to the building, and there’s no real risk of them traveling to other buildings on the block.  

Follow-up appointments for bed bug and cockroach remediation have already been scheduled. Vander Veen said that’s typical, so the problem can be completely eradicated. The follow-ups will include a visual inspection and interviews with tenants. If necessary, Vander Veen said, residual chemical spot treatments will be applied at that time.

The roof is the next on the laundry list of items that need to be addressed.

Prior to bringing Plunkett’s on board, Brisson said it was understood that the roof would need to be fixed first before the pest problem could truly be eradicated.

Vander Veen said while the moisture that the bad roof lets in may be a conducive environment for the cockroaches, they won’t be able to just get back into the building via the roof.

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Brisson said Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. (SEH) - who is the contracted consultant for roof replacement - completed its site investigation last Thursday. It’s expected to develop a roof design and bid the specs in the next two weeks.

“We’re bumping up pretty hard when talking about snow,” he said. “We’re going to take every effort to get it taken care of.”

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