Newport officers say air quality at police station is causing medical problems

Posted April 11, 2012, at 6:05 p.m.
Last modified April 12, 2012, at 5:32 a.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — For about the past six months, some Newport police officers have been complaining of headaches, sinus problems and allergy-type issues.

The town is starting to attack the problem through replacing dry walls, ceiling tiles and adding a vent to alleviate what is suspected to be mold and mildew problems at the police station.

“At one point the police department was washing their cruisers inside the garage,” said Newport Town Manager James Ricker. “We’re having the Sheetrock replaced. We cured the washing in the bays [issue by not allowing them to do that until the walls are replaced].”

For some, the problem is worse than just headaches.

“One [officer] can’t spend more than an hour inside the building at a time. He has to go outside for a while,” Ricker said during last Wednesday’s selectmen meeting.

Exhaust fumes from firetrucks being started in the garage may have also contributed to the air quality problems, said Ricker.

“We closed off a door that really served no purpose between the fire department and the police station,” said Ricker. “We’re also looking to replace all of the ceiling tiles that are 30 years old. We just want to do a really good cleaning.”

The town will also install an exhaust fan in the garage to help cure the problem of engine exhaust and mildew from moisture buildup.

Ricker said the town has hired a contractor to replace the drywall in the police station and garage. The new walls will be lined with waterproof plastic, he said.

Ricker said at last week’s meeting that he has contacted air quality firms. The selectmen were hesitant to spend money on a specialist if they could fix the problem themselves.

“If you have a flat tire on your car, you’re not going to call an engineer to tell you you need to change it,” said Ricker. “If we still have an identified problem [after the work we will have done], we’ll call in a professional.”

Ricker said an air-filtration system will also be brought in to help circulate the air in the building.

“We’re going to take every step we can to take care of it,” said Ricker.

Newport Police Chief Leonard Macdaid said he was encouraged by the town’s response.

“At this point, they’re taking the proper action,” said Macdaid.

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