Residents allowed to move back into Bangor Housing Authority building after extensive cleanup of chemicals

Apartments 11 and 12 in the Autumn Park West apartment complex on  Union Street in Bangor remain unoccupied on Monday, March 18, after tenants were moved out due to poor air quality. Tenants were cleared to move back in after extensive cleaning on Friday.
Apartments 11 and 12 in the Autumn Park West apartment complex on Union Street in Bangor remain unoccupied on Monday, March 18, after tenants were moved out due to poor air quality. Tenants were cleared to move back in after extensive cleaning on Friday. Buy Photo
Posted March 24, 2013, at 11:27 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The air appears to be back to normal at Bangor Housing Authority apartment building evacuated earlier this month, according to the agency’s director.

Last week, tenants in four one-bedroom units at Autumn Park West, some of whom had shown signs of illness, were evacuated after air quality tests revealed “significantly elevated” levels of ethanol and some other chemicals, including isopropanol, isobutane and acetone, according to a report from Brewer-based TP Environmental Consulting.

Bangor Housing ventilated the rooms with fans, used HEPA filters to purify the air, washed carpets, window drapes and tenants’ clothing, and hired a cleaning company to scrub every hard surface in the units, according to Director Mike Myatt.

Myatt said the latest air quality tests conducted Friday showed greatly improved results and the residents who were displaced were cleared to return.

“The remediation plan that we put in place worked,” Myatt said Saturday. “All the levels were back down to normal.”

Myatt said he didn’t have figures available for how much the remediation work would cost Bangor Housing, but it would likely run “several thousand dollars.”

What caused that smell, which was compared to burning rubber and plastic or a “dirty” smoky odor, is still not known.

The original air quality report stated that the chemicals found in unusually high levels are “commonly found at clandestine methamphetamine laboratory sites” or places where pharmaceuticals are abused. The report provided details of the effects of methamphetamine exposure, its symptoms and how it affects air quality.

Police and Bangor firefighters were invited into the apartment below Baker’s on separate occasions after complaints from neighbors, and didn’t turn up evidence of illegal drug activity either time, according to Bangor Housing Authority and police officials.

Police searched the apartment in question for more than two hours on March 13, according to Myatt. Neither police, nor officials from the housing authority air-quality testing group have been able to determine exactly what caused the high chemical levels.

The cleaning crews also didn’t turn up any clues as to what the source was, Myatt said.

“Whatever caused it is no longer there,” he said.

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