Springdale, AR- Fire inspector cites flaw in apartment design

By Bob Caudle, NWA News,SPRINGDALE — A potentially lethal carbon monoxide leak forced the evacuation of Building C at Springdale Ridge 1 Apartments on Monday.

Kevin McDonald, chief inspector for the Springdale Fire Department, said the leak at the building measured 148 parts per million.

Anything over 100 parts per million is considered to be potentially lethal, McDonald said.

“Nobody required treatment by the ambulance service, but some went to the emergency room on their own,” McDonald said. “One lady had oxygen treatment for over an hour. Some of the people had mild symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, but none serious.”

Springdale Ridge 1 and Springdale Ridge 2 Apartments are at 750 and 770 S. 40th St., respectively.

A resident of the building, Jerry Hulsey, said the leak was more of a nuisance than anything.

“If we could get a place to stay, it would be OK,” Hulsey said. “This deal has been going on for a couple of weeks now. The neighbor’s carbon monoxide monitor has been going off.”

McDonald said the firefighters had trouble isolating the problem Sunday night and the Red Cross assisted.

“The Red Cross put us up in a hotel last night (Sunday night),” Hulsey said. “I have family living around here, but I’m not going to put them out when the apartment complex is putting us out.”

McDonald said the water heater and the heating and air conditioning units are in the same closet.

When the filter of the heating and air unit gets clogged, it pulls exhaust from the water heater, resulting in the carbon monoxide flowing through the building. McDonald said it was a design flaw in the building.

But, he added, finding the problem had been a process of elimination.

“It was kind of a building-type event,” McDonald said. “It began July 31 when our morning crew got a call to the apartment. They found a woman’s water heater vent at the top had come loose. She’d just bought a carbon monoxide detector.”

He said the department got a call Sunday from the same apartment and found the carbon monoxide level at 100 parts per million. They would turn the water heater off, and the count would go down. When they turned it on, the problem started again.

“So we went up into the attic space and when they’d blown in the insulation, they’d covered the vent up,” McDonald said. “We uncovered it and told her to get a plumber to check the water heater.”

Otto Potter, chief building inspector, said he has “red-tagged” the eight units in Building C. Potter was called by McDonald after fire officials found the flaw in the buildings.

“They’re (the eight units) not to be occupied until corrective measures are taken,” Potter said. “We’re not sure if there is just one factor contributing to this or not. We don’t know if the whole complex is like this one building or not.”

Potter said the apartment complex is served by gas clothes dryers. Several of the vent hoses to the dryers were disconnected, he said, which might have added to the problems.

He said he has ordered the complex to be checked by a certified air conditioning and heating company, adding that the residents in Unit 4 could not return until the problems were fixed.