Bedbug infestation reported at Illinois Department of Human Services office

SHARE Bedbug infestation reported at Illinois Department of Human Services office

In this March 30, 2011, file photo, a bed bug is displayed at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington. | AP

Employees at the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Fulton Street office say they are battling a bedbug infestation.

An employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said the 2650 W. Fulton St. location has had bedbugs in the past, but the current problem at the department’s West Side office started a few weeks ago.

The employee filed a grievance with AFSCME Local 2858, which took the matter to management. It took higher ups about four days before a fumigator was called in and only one room was fumigated, union spokesman Anders Lindall said.

“We are not convinced they’re resolved. The local union has requested that management have the fumigators inspect the infested areas before employees are returned to work in them,” he said.

Others called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but because the bugs aren’t a health hazard, employees were told there was little the administration could do.

“I get it, we all get it, we service a community where bedbugs may be a thing that comes in every once in a while, but the blatant ignoring of it from management and just choosing not to do anything about it is pretty crazy,” the employee said.

The pesky parasites can live almost anywhere, including apartment buildings and four star hotel rooms. They also spread quickly — another employee at the office believes that the bugs “hitched a ride” home with them, Lindall said. The cause of the current infestation isn’t known.

The concern is that it will spread to those who seek the department’s services, such as the homeless.

“Management has an obligation to provide a safe workplace to employees and, moreover, to the general public that comes in an out,” Lindall said. “Nobody should be exposed to an infestation of biting insects in the course of doing the people’s business.”

Lindall said the union would like a more comprehensive approach to treating the problem, including the removal of furniture, fumigating more offices at the Fulton location and cleaning them more generally — they’re currently cleaned once a year.

A spokeswoman for the human services department said the agency is looking into the problem but did not provide further comment.

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