AUGUSTA — Bedbugs are still a persistent nuisance in the city despite efforts to fight off the pests after a massive infestation was reported in two boarding houses in May with bedbugs, or evidence of them, having been detected at three different city buildings in the months since.

The latest bedbug-related incident was the discovery a couple weeks ago of a bedbug found lurking inside a DVD case at Lithgow Public Library.

Leif Dahlin, community services director for the city, said the DVD was disposed of and a bedbug-detecting dog was brought in to check the library for bedbugs and found no others. He said the library is now checked monthly by the trained dog, as are other city properties including Augusta City Center, Augusta Civic Center, Buker Community Center and Lithgow. A Merrills Detector Dog Services dog and its handler checked city buildings as recently as two weeks ago, Dahlin said, and did not find any bedbugs in any city building, other than in a sealed-off area in space previously occupied by the Augusta Boys and Girls Club for Teens at Buker Community Center. There the presence of bedbugs was detected in September, forcing the club to move to a different part of the city-owned community center.

Dahlin said the city has been proactive in seeking out the bugs before they spread and become an infestation.

“So far we’re keeping it in check,” Dahlin said. “We’re good right now.”

He said the city has consulted with pest experts to develop a plan to remove any remaining bedbugs from the lone small room where they were detected on the lower floor of Buker Community Center. A raised floor, with airspace beneath it, has made getting rid of bedbugs from the former school building a challenge. Dahlin said contractors are expected to go into the room soon and completely seal off the raised floor, so if there are any bedbugs under it, they’ll be sealed in permanently and die off.

The Boys and Girls Club moved to an upper floor of the community center after the presence of bedbugs was detected. Dahlin said the club’s programs have continued with no impact following the move upstairs. He anticipates the club should be able to move back to its former downstairs location in January or February.

A bedbug was spotted by a Lithgow staff member a couple of weeks ago in a DVD case just recently returned to the library. Elizabeth Pohl, library director, said the staff member double-bagged the item and the bug, and the bag was removed from the building. The bug-detecting dog was then brought in to search the entire building and found no indication there were any other bedbugs at the library.

The library reopened in August after an extensive renovation and expansion. The renovations were unrelated to bedbugs.

Pohl said bedbugs can be a problem anywhere, even at five-star hotels and other public buildings.

“Anywhere the public is quite a bit, there may be a problem with them,” she said. “The best thing we can do is try not to judge and be good protectors of our surroundings. We’re committed to being proactive.”

Pohl said library protocol when a bedbug — or evidence of one or more — is found in a returned item is to contact the borrower to tell them about it. The borrower is then required to provide some form of certification, such as confirmation by a landlord or pest control expert, that their place of residence is bedbug free before they’ll be allowed to borrow items from the library again.

“That may sound harsh, but we just can’t take the chance,” Pohl said. “We call the person and try to be compassionate and caring, and let them know we discovered a problem.”

The blood-sucking bugs came to the attention of city officials in May after what they described as an infestation of bedbugs was discovered at boarding houses at 382 and 384 Water St.

Robert Overton, a city code enforcement officer, and tenants of the buildings said they saw bugs and signs of them in apartments and in shared common areas such as hallways and bathrooms.

Photographs taken inside 382 Water St. showed a shower floor, table, bedding and other areas littered with dozens of bedbugs or their exoskeletons. Bedbugs shed their exoskeletons as they grow.

Overton said the owner of the company that owns the Water Street buildings, River City Realty, and its property manager, have been cooperative in getting the buildings treated by pest control experts. But he has yet to receive proof from owner Larry Fleury that the buildings have been cleared of the bugs, which can be hard to get rid of, often requiring multiple treatments by pesticides.

He said he spoke to the building owner about a month ago, and he confirmed they were still using a licensed exterminator for follow-up treatments and inspections for bedbugs.

Fleury could not be reached for comment.

The infestation prompted city officials, with input from pest experts and stakeholders including landlords, to write an ordinance giving the city the authority to require landlords to bring in pest management professionals to exterminate bedbugs when an infestation is discovered. It also requires tenants to notify their landlords if they know or suspect there is an infestation and prohibits them from trying to treat the infestation themselves, which experts said can make it worse.

Overton said the ordinance, and the attention generated by the reports of an infestation, raised awareness of the issue among property owners and prompted many of them to respond to tenant’s concerns about bedbugs more promptly.

“With that infestation, it was just unbelievable how many bugs there were,” Overton said. “When all that happened, it was so heavily covered, since then we’ve had less difficulty in getting parties involved to do what they need to do. But I’m still receiving complaints on a weekly basis. So they’re still out there.”

Overton said if a tenant knows or suspects their dwelling has bedbugs, they should inform their landlord or property manager immediately, because, he said, if they wait, it could be become an infestation.

In July bedbugs were discovered in the city’s General Assistance office on the first floor at Augusta City Center, prompting officials to move those services to a vacant spot upstairs. They were later detected elsewhere in the downstairs suite of offices where the first bug was found. So that area was sealed off and treated.

It took at least two treatments of pesticides, but by mid-August, that area of city center was cleared of bedbugs.

Renovations, including the removal of carpet and upholstered furniture and installation of a sealed tile floor, were done at city center to try to prevent the return of bedbugs. Staff moved back into the space in October.

“We’ve done our best to eliminate any environment where they can harbor and live,” Dahlin said of efforts to make city properties more bedbug-resistant.

City officials also no longer accept donations of clothing at city center.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj