Dangerous carbon monoxide scare in NJ

September 12, 2008 7:53:00 AM PDT
Hundreds of residents were evacuated in the middle of the night from a Paterson high-rise by a carbon monoxide scare. The carbon monoxide detectors inside the Riverview Towers apartment complex apparently went off at around 12:20 a.m. this morning.

Fumes poured throughout the 16-story structure, creating what the fire chief called a "dangerous situation."

Eyewitness News is told initial readings inside the structure showed carbon monoxide levels of 700 parts per million. Safe levels of carbon monoxide are below 10 parts per million.

Residents of approximately 200 apartments were reportedly evacuated, frightening residents who were herded into the night. Some of the residents were overcome by exposure to the fumes.

Five residents were rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital in Paterson. Another six were treated at the scene.

Officials say the leak was traced to a large, industrial hot water heater that was not properly ventilated. Instead of sending the carbon monoxide to an outside vent, it was being directed into the building.

Firefighters ventilated the building, which took more than four hours. During that time, remaining residents were forced to wait outside or seek other shelter.

The fire chief said it appeared the mishap was caused by an equipment malfunction.

Carbon monoxide is highly poisonous, colorless, odorless gas that mixes well with air. The gas comes from any type of combustion, such as a car motor, an outdoor grill, a heating system or a campfire.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to 700 parts per million or more of carbon dioxide can cause sleepiness, hallucinations, convulsions and death if someone is exposed to it for more than an hour.

Riverview Towers is a privately run complex consisting of four-high-rise buildings on the west bank of the Passaic River. There are 752 apartments.

WEB PRODUCED BY: Lakisha Bostick

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