Apartment Officials Can't Determine Cause of High Carbon Monoxide Levels

By: Leah Uko

PAPILLION (KPTM) - Firefighters in Papillion are trying to figure out what has been causing high levels of carbon monoxide for a month at an apartment complex.

On Monday night, firefighters responded to a call about high readings at the Village Papillion Apartments near 370 Highway and 84th Street. They have made eight trips to the complex since the beginning of this year.

"I don't think that the case is closed on it. They're going to have to continue to try and figure out what the problem is," said Deputy Jeff Jones with Papillion Fire Department.

Jones said after a gas company, too, found high CO levels, the fire department got the state's fire marshal involved to help find a clear cause.

"Is it a design flaw or a construction flaw? They're going to have to try and figure out what's causing this," he continued.

The City of Papillion's Chief Building official, Todd Aerni told reporter Leah Uko that humid weather and lack of wind could be factors; but the city ordered the apartment's management to hire an engineer company to assess the problem.

Regional Supervisor for Our Nebraska Properties, Beth Watson said Black Hills Energy recommended removing the doors covering tenants' water heaters and furnaces in the kitchens. Maintenance did and is supposed to be either installing new water heaters or installing larger vents to suck up the CO.

Resident Elizabeth Bissen complained that no one has returned since removing her doors a month ago.

"They want to get away with the cheapest way out," Bissen said. "Obviously they're cheapest way out is to take the doors down for where the water heater is and the furnace is."

Aerni said technically, the apartment was not in violation with any city codes. He added that the water heaters were 10 years old and may be past the life span.

When asked whose responsibility it was to replace or repair the water heaters, Aerni replied that the engineers would figure this out. He said the apartment's management and the engineer team went "above and beyond" to deal with the issue by cleaning out debris from the water heaters, deciding to perform monthly--as opposed to quarterly--check ups and installing larger vents.

He said because the complex was not in violation of any codes, it did not have to take any of these measures.

There is no timeline for when the high CO level problem will be resolved. In the meantime, Aerni and Watson said tenants could move or wait for engineers to figure out how to restore the safety.

One person was hospitalized Monday. It was never confirmed whether or not that person's symptoms were directly related to exposure of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and tasteless toxic gas. It is brought by natural gases from unvented space heaters, leaking chimneys and furnaces, stoves, fireplaces and when cars run inside closed spaces for long periods of time.

At high concentrations it can cause headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, impaired vision, poor brain functioning and death.