Bartlett aids Sykesville postal staff

March 08, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Although employees at the Sykesville post office complained about poor air quality in the building, officials didn't take action until a congressman intervened.

"This process has hopefully alleviated some of the building-related health problems experienced by several employees," wrote Jean Maher, a clerk at the post office, in a letter thanking Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Republican who represents the 6th District.

Mr. Bartlett had visited the Sykesville post office to talk with workers and also gained the cooperation of the U.S. Postal Service.

But the 20-year-old, 5,354-square-foot building still is making employees sick, Ms. Maher said.

After the congressman's visit, officials ordered a thorough cleaning of all surfaces, fans and air-monitoring devices. No clue to the employees' problems was found in air samples taken from the building and analyzed.

"I was concerned about a series of employee health problems and asked the post office to cooperate," Mr. Bartlett said. "The workers were really concerned there was something inherently defective in the building."

Mr. Bartlett called postal authorities "very cooperative."

"The last thing we could look at was the duct system," Mr. Bartlett said. "That, too, was cleaned, and not at a low cost."

The ducts were cleaned in October. While Ms. Maher is grateful for Mr. Bartlett's efforts, she said, several employees still are experiencing health problems inside the building.

The office handles about 10,000 mail deliveries daily. All that paper generates "tremendous dust," Ms. Maher said.

"We are working in a building built for 10 people and now we have more than 50," she said. "Four employees have had pneumonia in the last two months. Another woman and I lose our voices inside the building."

Ms. Maher said she has "terrific coughing and about twice a week I get nosebleeds, always inside the building. Another woman has developed asthma since she began here and only gets attacks in the building."

When filters were removed from the air ducts, employees wanted them tested for hazardous chemicals.

"We are wondering if there is a fungus or bacteria which is causing all these problems," she said. "Most of us have worked here for years and are wondering at the long-term effects."

The employees sought help from their union, the American Postal Workers Union.

"The union told us they were working with a company who might be able to conduct further tests," Ms. Maher said.

Employees want a complete check of the heating and air-conditioning systems to see if they are functioning properly, she said.

"This is a mystery," she said. "We are bound and determined to find out what is causing these problems."

Ms. Maher said other employees were worried about their jobs and would not comment for publication.

Joel Nupp, acting postmaster, said the health problems "run in spells." He said he would like air-quality monitoring to continue in the building.

He referred further questions to Larry Hoeck, manager for postal operations in Frederick. Mr. Hoeck did not return phone calls.

Mr. Bartlett said, "If there is still a problem, we will do whatever is necessary, whatever remediation that needs to take place."

The congressman said an air-filtering system may be the answer.

"A system to recirculate the air and pull out anything causing problems might work," he said.

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