Apartments Updated After Carbon Monoxide Illness

July 21, 2009|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,nick.madigan@baltsun.com

In what they called "an abundance of caution," the owners of a Northeast Baltimore apartment building in which nine people were sickened by a carbon monoxide leak said Monday that they would replace water heaters in four of the complex's 803 units.

Sawyer Realty Holdings LLC issued a statement saying the Sunday leak at the Dutch Village Townhomes appeared to have come from a faulty water heater in a vacant unit. The carbon-monoxide detector in that unit went off and alerted tenants in a neighboring apartment.

Seven children and two adults were treated at two medical facilities and "were able to return home," the statement said.

Hours after that incident, an adult and three children were taken to a Howard County hospital about 5 a.m. Monday after another apparent carbon monoxide leak in Columbia.

In that incident, firefighters were unable to locate the source of the contamination, according to Battalion Chief Eric Proctor of the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services. He said the American Red Cross was trying to find shelter for the family until staff at the apartment complex on the 10300 block of Twin Rivers Road "figures out what the problem is."

In the Baltimore incident, firefighters and medics arrived at the apartment in the 6900 block of McClean Boulevard, near Perring Parkway, shortly after 3 p.m. and found seven children and two adults complaining of feeling ill, said Chief Kevin Cartwright, a spokesman for the Baltimore Fire Department.

Firefighters and a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. crew traced the leaking carbon monoxide to a malfunctioning gas-operated water heater on the first floor and shut it down, he said.

Cartwright said low levels of the gas also were found in two adjacent, vacant apartments.

The owners of the apartment complex, built in 1953, also own Cove Village in Essex, which has a history of carbon monoxide problems, including two incidents that sent eight people to the hospital last month. In July 2005, three people - a 48-year-old man and his two stepdaughters, ages 14 and 15 - died after inhaling the gas in their home at Cove Village.

A Sawyer Realty spokesman said Monday in an e-mail that the company had spent more than $2 million on renovations at the Dutch Village Townhomes complex. Most of the work was done in 2004, according to the property's Web site. All the units have carbon-monoxide detectors, the company says.

Sawyer Realty's statement said that fire department officials did not detect "any immediate health hazards" in tests at adjoining units. However, just to be safe, the company said, water heaters in two occupied units were replaced Sunday night and the heaters in two vacant units - including the one in which the problem arose - were to be replaced on Monday.

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