January 28, 2021

Carbon monoxide leak poisons tenants

NEWBURGH — One resident of Pleasant Valley apartments was hospitalized Tuesday for possible carbon monoxide poisoning and a second taken in for observation after a muffler came off a generator in the basement of the structure, Newburgh Fire Chief Gary Sibley said Wednesday.

The 17-unit complex has been without power since last Thursday.

One woman was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor by the Hampden Fire Department, after first seeking treatment at Hampden Family Medicine, according to Sibley and Lt. Kevin Peary of the Hampden Fire Department.

A second woman, described by Sibley as elderly, was taken Tuesday night to Eastern Maine Medical Center for observation. She was later released.

More than 150 people statewide have been treated for carbon monoxide poisoning since last week’s ice storm, according to the state Bureau of Health. Two deaths have been blamed on the deadly gas, which is odorless, tasteless and colorless. The Bureau of Health has ordered a carbon monoxide poisoning alert.

The Newburgh Fire Department was called to the apartments about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sibley said. “There were definitely high levels of carbon monoxide,” he said.

Sibley did not know for sure how many people may have been affected, but he said tenants had been complaining to one another of feeling ill for a couple of days.

Karen Simpson, who is a Pleasant Valley tenant, said she sought treatment on her own after firefighters suggested that anyone who felt ill should see a doctor. Simpson said as many as seven residents had become ill.

Simpson and another tenant, Lloyd Coements, said they had several times complained to their landlord, Elaine Ward, that something was wrong, but that Ward had ignored them.

“She wouldn’t listen to me,” Coements said Wednesday.

Ward, who lives on the premises, said Wednesday that she received no complaints before Tuesday.

“I live right here,” she said. “Do you think I’d let it go?”

Safety Tips

How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

Generators should be placed only outside, not in an attached garage.

Outdoor cooking devices such as gas and charcoal grills and gas camp stoves should be used only outside.

Kerosene heaters should use the proper K-1 grade fuel. Keep the heated room well-ventilated, including keeping doors to other rooms open. Keep a window partially open.

Purchase a carbon monoxide monitor that has been certified by Underwriters Laboratory and place it in the room with the heater.

Keep chimney flue and a window open when burning decorative gas fireplace logs as a heat source.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:

Headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, weakness, visual disturbances. Very high exposure may result in coma or death. Symptoms can mimic flu or food poisoning.

What to do if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning:

Open windows and doors, turn down or off any suspected heat sources, leave the house immediately. Seek medical attention or call 911.

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