VEAZIE — The town office was evacuated and three employees were taken to the hospital Friday after a chance finding of dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that can be deadly.
“It was a fluke finding. We just got lucky,” said Mike Azevedo, a firefighter and emergency medical technician for the town of Veazie.
Azevedo said that dangerously high carbon monoxide levels were detected at about 10:30 a.m., as emergency personnel were attempting to test the Fire Department’s carbon monoxide monitor. The monitor had just had a new sensor installed.
Unable to get a normal reading in the Fletcher Municipal Building, which houses the town office and Fire Department operations, Azevedo took the monitor into the fresh air outside.
“Boom. It just cleared,” he said. After a second monitor from the hazardous materials response truck yielded a virtually identical reading inside the town office, the building was evacuated and three people were taken to the hospital.
Town Manager William Reed, among the affected staffers, said he and two other employees were taken by ambulance to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
“Everybody had elevated [carbon monoxide] levels,” Reed said. He said that all were given oxygen and released with a clean bill of health.
In the meantime, the air was cleared. The town office reopened at 3 p.m. Friday, but was subject to closure should carbon monoxide levels return to unacceptable levels.
Though town officials were still working to pinpoint the source of the problem late Friday afternoon, they believed that it could be a down draft from the chimney.
Reed said that carbon monoxide levels would continue to be monitored.
According to the town manager, town employees had been complaining of headaches, one of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Often referred to as “the silent killer,” carbon monoxide poisoning is the cause of 1,500 accidental deaths a year in the United States, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. More than 10,000 people a year are treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.