Leverett, MA – A malfunctioning furnace in Town Hall set off alarms and filled the building with high levels of carbon monoxide early New Years Day, sickening one employee who was at work there and triggering a response from the towns Fire Department.
The Select Board discussed the incident Tuesday and said the furnace has had numerous problems since its installation three years ago.
John Kuczek, manager of town facilities in Leverett, told the board he received a call from the alarm company around 1 a.m. Jan. 1 and went to the building, where firefighters already had responded. Upon entering the building, Kuczek said he found the interior filled with smoke and very high levels of carbon monoxide in the air.
You could smell the soot and carbon smoke, he said.
Kuczek said he inspected the furnaces and discovered that the unit which heats the second floor was emitting black smoke, prompting him to shut the furnaces down, turn off the oil line and ventilate the building. He said the smoke stopped about five minutes later, at which point he secured the building and restarted the first-floor unit.
The faulty furnace was repaired by T.J. Conway Co. of Springfield on Jan. 2, and since has been operating properly.
Dee Ann Civello, the town treasurer and tax collector, said she had been in the building on New Years Eve until about 12:45 a.m. Jan. 1. Civello said she had experienced drowsiness, dizziness and a headache while working, but at the time attributed it to working late. Civello said she did not seek medical attention.
Town Assessor Stephen Schmidt gave the Select Board a letter that expressed his concerns about the furnaces and made recommendations to improve the health and safety of those who use the building.
Schmidt recommended discontinuing use of the second-floor furnace until carbon monoxide detectors are installed in each of the buildings rooms and offices and an independent engineering or heating specialist has studied the system and recommended a replacement. Schmidt also said all Town Hall employees should be given information about the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, as well as a report with full details of the incident.
The previous problems with the new heating system were a nuisance, when it just failed to work, but this latest incident raises the concern by several levels of magnitude, and Im concerned about the continued operation of this heating system, Schmidt wrote.
When I talked with Dee Ann and found out about her carbon monoxide poisoning caused by the malfunctioning heating system on New Years Eve, I realized that even the concerns about loss of the building paled in comparison to the narrowly averted tragedy of loss of human life, he added.
According to Kuczek, additional smoke and carbon monoxide detectors were installed in the building shortly after the incident and are functioning properly.
The Select Board agreed Tuesday with Schmidts recommendation to install carbon monoxide detectors that are easily readable by employees in each office of Town Hall.
The furnaces from Adams Manufacturing Co. of Cleveland were installed three years ago as a part of an energy-efficiency upgrade and, according to the Select Board, have experienced a number of problems including an October 2011 incident in which some of the wires in the circuitry melted.