Students find chemical leak in apartment

High carbon monoxide levels were found inside a water heater closet of a Nine and Nine Apartment unit this week. Maintenance replaced the water heater, but students living in the unit believe they could have died from exposure to the chemicals. (Nine and Nine Apartments)

Four BYU students living at Nine and Nine Apartments, located at 876 East and 900 North, reported that an alarm was continually ringing on their apartment’s carbon monoxide detector.

The roommates believe a carbon monoxide leak in their apartment could have been deadly. Alex Martin, a BYU student from Houston, is one of the affected roommates.

Martin has lived at Nine and Nine Apartments since the last week of August. Martin said Nelson Brothers Management was very neglectful in dealing with a life-threatening problem.

Inside the apartment’s water heater closet, carbon monoxide levels of 2,000 parts per million were found. The water heater malfunctioned, exposing gas.

“The heater was emitting 2,000 ppm of CO, which if I breathed for five minutes, I would’ve been dead,” Martin said. “We could have gone to bed and never woken up because the management failed to take action. They chalked it up to a sensitive and faulty detector.”

Provo City Fire Captain Jeff Wise said that at those high levels of CO, someone could suffer quickly.

“I can tell you that CO is a deadly gas,” Wise said. “It is odorless and can be dangerous even at low concentrations depending on the length of time someone is exposed.”

Martin said he is frustrated at apartment managers in Provo because it seems like “managers don’t really care about the tenants because they know students have to live in BYU-approved housing.”

Martin said his apartment called management and maintenance at least eight times.

“We left countless messages via voicemail and email,” Martin said. “To this day, management has not contacted us or returned any of the calls.”

Martin also said his roommate, Will Harvey, began to feel dizzy on Monday, Dec. 8. The other roommates include Hunter Davidson and Jared Pon.

“Finally the maintenance took action and called the fire department. It took the notice of legal action to have them perform their normal responsibilities,” Martin said.

The Universe contacted Nine and Nine Apartments but is waiting to hear from higher-level authorities on the matter. The front desk attendant who answered the call said that “no one got hurt” and that privacy issues should be considered in order to obtain a comment from the apartment complex or roommates involved.

Martin said he thought maintenance and management would take the situation more seriously. Martin said he and his roommates submitted complaints about the noise to management, but no one responded.

Maintenance moved the alarm away from a vent to clear up the complaints. The alarm went off again, so maintenance replaced the whole system altogether.

Martin’s parents then contacted the apartment complex about the alarm, and apartment managers contacted the Provo Fire Department.

Martin said he is considering moving even though his contract lasts through April.

“I fully intend on receiving a substantial discount on rent next semester,” Martin said. “It is my hope that management will put in place a protocol in dealing with a life-threatening situation such as CO gas problem.”

Deputy Fire Chief Tom Augustus said this type of incident is one of the more common calls the department receives. Augustus said the departments works closely with Questar, which controls all of the natural gas service in this area. He said carbon monoxide situations hit the news almost daily in the national headlines.

“We carry detectors on our fire vehicles, and if we get any reading at all, we call Questar,” Augusus said. “They are the experts. We also have monitors for reading some blood gases and can help determine if people have higher-than-normal levels. We don’t take chances. If we suspect that there may be a problem we will evacuate the residents immediately.”

Augustus said some precautions involve not using the furnace room for storage and having furnaces inspected and filters replaced on a regular basis.

The water heater was removed and replaced the next day, but Martin and roommates have not heard from anyone since.

“I want them to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he said. “All four of us in that apartment could have died.”

According to FOX 13, “Administrators at BYU’s off-campus housing office told FOX 13 they contract with the complex but cannot require the property to provide or maintain CO detectors. They would not comment further on the incident.”

The roommates want to propose new safety procedures implemented by management so this does not occur again. Nine and Nine claims to be the closest apartment complex to the BYU campus.

Listed below is a timeline of events regarding the detector and the carbon monoxide leak in the apartment complex.

11/21 CO detector installed.

11/29 CO alarm first sounds, and tenants open windows.

11/30 A tenant calls maintenance, which says the issue will be checked Monday.

12/1 Maintenance checks out the problem in the afternoon. Alarm moved from the wall to the window nook because maintenance says it is probably too close to a vent.

12/2 CO alarm sounds again with all windows open, and tenants call for maintenance again. Management says it will “look into it” and get it taken care of.

12/3–12/4 CO alarm goes off multiple times with windows open.

12/5 or 12/6 Maintenance switches the detector for a new one, stating that the problem must be a faulty detector because the apartment doesn’t smell like carbon monoxide. (This shows lack of knowledge regarding the severity of the situation.)

12/6 CO alarm goes off again, and tenants cannot reach management or maintenance over the phone. Management sends email to BYU Off Campus Housing regarding the situation.

12/7 CO alarm sounds again. Tenants call maintenance but receive no promise of when the problem will be taken care of. They call management, receive no answer and leave a message, again noting the severity of the situation.

12/8 CO alarm sounds again. Tenants call management at 11:14 a.m. and receive no answer. They leave a message. Email sent to management at 1:47 p.m. No reply. Maintenance contacted at 9:45 p.m. Maintenance arrives at the apartment at 10 p.m. Tenants call fire department. Fire department detects CO and calls the gas company. Questar rep arrives at 11 p.m., reads CO levels at 2,000 ppm. He states that this is a deadly amount of CO and that the threshold is 400 ppm. The water heater has a dangerous flame disturbanceproducing the CO. He red-tags the heater and shuts off the gas.

12//10 Water heater replaced.

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