PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - A contractor says old piping may be to blame for a carbon monoxide leak that led to an investigation and an evacuation of the Swanson Homes complex in Portsmouth.
Portsmouth Redevelopment & Housing Authority evacuated 42 units that tested positive for carbon monoxide following the death of Inez and Leroy Stith . In some cases the amount detected was within an EPA acceptable range.
A contractor working at Swanson Homes Monday said that all water heaters release some carbon monoxide when they are running. However, the contractor said the water heaters being replaced had brittle pipes meaning they could be releasing more carbon monoxide than usual.
"This pipe had gotten brittle and some of it was leaking out through the joints where it was connected," Craig Plumbing Company's Jim Craig said.
PRHA's Deputy Executive Director said a Housing and Urban Development-approved consultant checked each apartment in April.
Craig said the Stith's water heater located inside of a locked closet had a problem that would have caused a carbon monoxide leak
"I saw a connection that was like half undone now normally that doesn't come undone but it had come undone for some reason," Craig said.
Public housing officials decided to replace 15 gas ranges and eight water heaters.
"This black pipe is not even used anymore, possibly when this was installed 20 years ago this might have been a suggested pipe that could have been used," Craig said.
The water heaters may explain the carbon monoxide leak, but Craig couldn't explain why the carbon monoxide detectors didn't sound.
"Well really you're counting on these smoke detectors to alarm you and usually they work right away," Craig said.
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