By KIM FUNDINGSLAND
WATFORD CITY Following an initial call of an 18-year-old woman passed out at the Expressway Laundromat Sunday afternoon, 13 others from the same location were sent to the hospital with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. By late afternoon Sunday all had recovered.
"They definitely had carbon monoxide poisoning. We know that for a fact," said Jerry Samuelson of McKenzie County Emergency Management. "It was being considered to fly those affected for barometric chamber treatment in Minneapolis and Denver, but they're okay, treated and released."
McKenzie County Emergency Management was called to the scene about noon Sunday after Watford City police received a call for assistance. The Fire Department, MDU and a North Dakota Health Department Environmental Response Team all responded to the laundromat.
According to Samuelson, a ventilation pipe that had become disconnected from a boiler was believed to be primarily responsible for a build-up of carbon monoxide inside the busy laundromat.
"There was extremely high levels of carbon monoxide. We don't know how long the vent pipe was faulty. There were some reports of people having headaches there as much as a week ago," said Samuelson.
Some customers at the laundromat regularly use a product called "grafitti degreaser" in combination with bleach to clean oil rig and fire retardant clothing. The mixture of the two products in laundromat washing machines was cited by the Department of Health as a possible contributor to Sunday's emergency.
Expressway Laundomat has been closed since the incident and will remain closed until a variety of corrective measures are in place. Among them are a complete inspection and repair of all ventilation systems and installation of carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
"They had all their dryers on Sunday. We suspect maybe their system was overloaded," said Samuelson. "We want to make sure their heating and air conditioning can handle all that and that there is a sufficient turn-over of air in there."