BATH — Bath Iron Works is dealing with a bed bug issue, but a representative from the shipyard’s largest union said steps have been taken to control the pests.

While details of when the bugs were introduced to the shipyard and to what degree they’ve spread are unknown, Tim Suitter, a representative from Local S6 said, “BIW has been very responsive to the issue, and has isolated the incident. Proper pest control, and other steps were taken, and we are committed to working with BIW to make sure our members are protected.”

The Times Record interviewed four BIW employees, most of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal. One employee said a worker unintentionally brought the bed bugs into one building of the shipyard from their home. That person was sent home when the problem was discovered. Pest control was brought in to clean the employee’s station, locker and the surrounding area.

About the size of an apple seed, the flat brown bugs feed on human blood, leaving behind small, itchy bumps. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the pests can easily hide and hitch rides on people to spread from place to place. Bedbugs don’t spread disease, but can be difficult to get rid of.

“We are committed to preserving the safety and privacy of each of our employees and have taken all necessary steps to do so,” said David Hench, BIW’s communications representative. “We regret that this is viewed as newsworthy and are concerned for the safety, privacy and dignity of the people involved.”

Bed bug infestations were rare until the 1990s, but are now considered a common pest throughout the U.S., according to a 2015 report from the University of Washington.

“Bed bugs can be found anywhere, even the most expensive hotel; they are not a sign of poor cleaning,” the report states.

The bugs can be eradicated through chemical and natural means. Bed bugs die when their body temperature reaches 113°F, according to the EPA, so to kill bed bugs with heat the room or container must be hotter to ensure sustained heat reaches the bugs no matter where they are hiding.

Freezing temperatures can also do the job, but the room must remain below freezing for an extended period of time, and the EPA warns home freezers may not be cold enough to kill bed bugs. Putting them outside in freezing temperatures could kill bed bugs, but there are many factors that can affect the success of this method.

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