Probe of carbon monoxide in apartments ends Officials say heater made Westminster residents ill

February 13, 1996|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,SUN STAFF

Maryland Occupational Safety and Health officials finished yesterday an investigation of a carbon monoxide incident that displaced 16 people from the apartments above Johansson's restaurant early Sunday in Westminster.

It will be a few weeks before official results of the investigation are available, but firefighters and health officials said yesterday that a propane gas heater caused the problem, which sent all 16 residents to Carroll County General Hospital about 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

Officials said residents called 911 when they began to feel ill Saturday night. Gil Chamblin, Carroll County General spokeswoman, said the residents -- including some small children -- were treated and released that morning.

"We had been down there in the beginning of the week," said Jeff Alexander, chief of Westminster Volunteer Fire Department. "In both incidents, the carbon monoxide levels were above and beyond what is considered safe."

Mr. Alexander said that in each case, the level of carbon monoxide was at or above 70 parts per million. Three residents were hospitalized in the first incident Feb. 5.

The legal limit for carbon monoxide exposure is 50 parts per million over an eight-hour day. Recommended maximum exposures are closer to 25 parts per million over eight hours.

The culprit in Sunday's incident was a propane gas heater placed on a low burn; last week, it had been workers renovating the basement with gas-powered tools. Each involved improper ventilation, officials said.

The heater "was burning all the oxygen in the room and producing carbon monoxide instead," said Arthur Slusark, spokesman for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., which was called in to inspect the building's gas furnace.

He said the heat will remain off until furnaces are repaired.

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