Termite infestation hits Galveston church

GALVESTON, TX With the storm surge have come a lot of pest problems. Termites are always an issue along the Gulf Coast, but Hurricane Ike accelerated the population.

When Mike Lehar gutted into an old house Galveston house after Ike, he found out it was still occupied.

"Anywhere you have water incursion from rain or a leaky roof, which he had, you have termites," said Lehar.

The island's climate makes it attractive to all varieties, but the voracious Formosan termite has been found by Texas A&M experts to have concentrated colonies in sections of the city.

For Galveston's First Presbyterian Church, that's old news now. To a termite, nothing is sacred.

"The damage we had was the weight-bearing joist, the ends that are to bear weight, had been dissolved by the termites," said Rev. David Green of the First Presbyterian Church.

Last year, the chapel ceiling collapsed from a Formosan termite infestation even though the building was routinely sprayed for termites.

"We did everything anyone could possibly do to watch out for the termites, to repair the damage, to get infested wood out of the building, but still it wasn't enough," said Rev. Green.

Termites live in what's called a carton, the nest of Formosan termites that were found in the church's bell tower. They're not unique to Galveston, but exterminators have been getting calls about them as storm repairs uncover infestations.

"Any type of termite, I think, is a bad variety, but the Formosans because the colonies are so large that they reproduce quick and they do damage quick as well to the structure or to the food source," said Ed Szymanski of Truly Nolan Pest Control. One of his clients is First Presbyterian Church.

That food source of course is wood and because of it, the church is trying to raise $200,000 to repair its century-old chapel that survived Ike only to be undone by termites.

"You can never let your guard down with these," said Rev. Green.

The termites have been eliminated at the church, however the repairs continue and the congregation still continues to worship there.

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