Multiple courthouse employees treated for carbon monoxide exposure


Courthouse shows no signs of elevated levels in multiple tests

By Sarah Hawley - shawley@civitasmedia.com



POMEROY — Eight county employees tested for elevated carbon monoxide levels on Friday after working at the courthouse that day, although the levels in the courthouse itself were not elevated.

While the employees were treated for the exposure, multiple agencies checked the building for the source of the carbon monoxide.

Commissioner Randy Smith, who himself tested for an elevated level, said that since Friday afternoon four separate agencies/individuals have conducted five checks of the entire building, with levels found to be at the normal level.

A check by Columbia Gas on Friday evening with a reading found of 2 parts per million, which is within the normal range.

A recheck on Saturday by a different Columbia Gas employee found zero parts per million in the building. The check was conducted, making sure that all gas appliances were properly vented, which was the case.

The building was once again checked on Monday morning, with levels in each office in the building at zero. The only place which read higher was at the air intake of the boiler room, which is normal in the tube of the boiler. This check was conducted by EMA Director Jamie Jones using local fire department equipment. Jones conducted checks on two occasions using two different devices.

A fourth check was conducted on Monday by an individual who does contracting checks on the dorms at Ohio University. The individual from Lanning Mechanical in Athens spent approximately three hours in the building using what was described as high-end equipment to check each office and room in the building individually. Once again the test showed no elevation of levels.

Smith said that the multiple checks were conducted to make sure that the building was safe for employees and members of the public who come to the courthouse. Smith said the safety of everyone is the number one priority and knowing the dangers associated with carbon monoxide exposure makes it important to ensure everything is checked.

The sickness on Friday came approximately six months after there was an issue with the boiler exhaust which sickened a couple individuals. In that case the exhausted pipe had been knocked loose by someone working on the system. The exhaust vent system has been changed since that time and is functioning properly.

This time no source has been able to be located.

The eight individuals who tested for elevated levels were scattered throughout the courthouse and not centralized to one location.

Carbon monoxide can come from any source that burns fuel. Common sources are cars, fireplaces, powerboats, wood stoves, kerosene space heaters, charcoal grills, and gas appliances such as water heaters and ovens. These things usually cause no problems. But if they are not used or installed properly, carbon monoxide may build up in an enclosed space, according to WebMD.

When you inhale carbon monoxide it replaces the oxygen that is normally carried by the hemoglobin in your red blood cells. As a result, your brain and other tissues get less oxygen. This can cause serious symptoms or death.

Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure include headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion, sluggishness and flu symptoms.

Zero to 9 PPM are considered background carbon monoxide and are in the normal range.

A range of 10-35 PPM is considered a potential hazard and should be investigated.

Numbers above 36 PPM require a breathing apparatus and the individuals exposed should be checked by EMS and/or physicians. Structures should also be ventilated to remove the carbon monoxide.

The courthouse is equipped with 12 carbon monoxide detectors which were all checked to ensure they were working properly (they were working). New batteries have been placed in each detector.

Courthouse shows no signs of elevated levels in multiple tests

By Sarah Hawley

shawley@civitasmedia.com

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