PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - Congressman Bobby Scott is seeking answers regarding conditions at a Portsmouth apartment complex where two people died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Congressman Scott said it was unacceptable and will be fixed. He will further investigate the complaints
Congressman Scott held a meeting with residents at Swanson Homes Thursday morning. About 10 residents in attendance said they want to feel peace and comfort in their home, but do not.
In June, Inez and Leroy Stith died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their apartment, in the 2600 block of Washington Avenue. Following their deaths, the complex tested all units and determined 42 of them tested positive for elevated carbon monoxide levels.
One resident told Congressman Scott, "I'm upset because I lost two friends and it never should have happened."
Jereon Brown with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development told WAVY.com on July 25 the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority is working with HUD to purchase 130 new water heaters for Swanson Homes.
Congressman Scott asked residents to share their concerns about repeated exposure to both carbon monoxide and elevated natural gas levels in their homes. He also wanted to know more about the need for low-cost digital CO detectors, among other concerns.
At the meeting, Congressman Scott told residents the situation is unacceptable and will be fixed. He committed to investigating the complaints.
PRHA response from executive director Kathy Warren:
The Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority is committed to restoring our residents' confidence in their community. To date, we have done the following:
Immediately after the tragic accident with the Stith household, the Authority hired SCS Engineers to test all hot water heaters, all piping, all stoves and air quality in all of the homes (210). Any appliances emitting an elevated level of CO over 15 ppm was shut down. If it was a stove, one of three things would have occurred, it may have only required a cleaning, the pilot may have needed adjustment or it may have to be replaced. It was then retested and certified prior to turning it back on. If it was a hot water heater it was replaced. All hot water heaters of the same vintage as the heater in 1702 South Street are being replaced even if they are operating properly. We have replaced 52 hot water heaters and 27 stoves to date. All other appliances were inspected and passed environmental testing as certified by SCS.
The Authority held 7 meetings last week with the residents in Swanson Homes. We wanted to provide multiple sessions so that there was plenty of opportunity for residents to go to any meeting. All meetings covered:
1. What caused the tragic accident with the Stith family-a high level of CO that came from the hot water heater. We have changed out 50+ water heaters already and we have tested all stoves (and replaced if necessary) and checked air quality in the units. Home Depot is coming out to replace about 110 water heaters over the next 60-90 days.
2. The Environmental Consultant went over CO, what it is, what causes it and what he has tested and found in the units.
3. We gave a demonstration of the Smoke/CO detectors and the different beeps and what they mean. We provided a laminated copy of an explanation to everyone.
4. The Fire Department gave a presentation on their role, what red-tagging means and what to do if they hear their detector going off.
5. Open Q&A
- Home Depot will begin replacing 110 hot water heaters in approximately two weeks. The existing contractor is still on site replacing heaters.
- We are continuing to test and inspect units.
The Authority also sent another notice to residents that did not come to one of the seven meetings, offering for us to come to their home if they would like us to provide information. Some of the residents in the meeting with Congressman Scott did not come to any of the public sessions and did not contact us to let us know that they could not attend so that we could accommodate them with another meeting or personal visit.
The Fire Department did confirm that the smoke/CO detectors were dismantled in the Stith household. The protective cages were pried from the wall, the batteries were removed and the hard-wiring was disconnected. The Authority installed two new detectors in May, 2012.
We look forward to working with Congressman Scott and informing him of the process that has been ongoing for two months.
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