Inspection at Okla. Apartment Complex to Focus on Toxic Chemical

August 6, 2007

State officials plan to inspect an apartment complex in Chouteau, Okla., where a toxic chemical forced about a dozen residents from their homes.

Traces of chloroethanol were found earlier this week in a breezeway and stairwell outside Haley’s Village Apartments, said David Horton, chief of the Claremore Fire Department’s Hazardous Materials Team.

Chouteau police received a call about an odor that had induced headaches and nausea at the complex, so they alerted the Claremore Fire Department, Horton said.

Residents were evacuated, and the hazmat team scrubbed down the area, he said.

Jack Carson, a spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, said the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality notified his agency Aug. 3.

“There may or may not be much for us to locate,” Carson said. “If it is in fact a pesticide, that would fall under our jurisdiction.

“But judging from the report, it looks like they did everything right. This (cleaning the contaminated area) is exactly what we would have done.”

Carson said officials might be unable to determine how the chemical was tracked onto the complex.

“I suspect that if anyone became sick, the air conditioning unit picked it up and carried it into the apartments,” he said.

The majority of the evacuated residents sought treatment at the Mayes County Medical Center in Pryor, Chouteau Fire Chief Ted Key said.

Chouteau Mayor Jerry Floyd said the apartments have not been cleared for occupancy and that the displaced residents have been staying at a motel and churches.

“They can’t go back in there until that building is cleared up,” Floyd said. “A lot of their belongings are still in there, and they could be contaminated by the vapors.

“It is very toxic. It will kill you dead in its raw form.”

The Inola-based company that owns the apartments must hire a remediation company to clean them before they can be considered inhabitable, Key said.

Information from: Tulsa World,

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