Residents Still Seeking Answers On Carbon Dioxide Testing Two Plymouth Township Neighborhoods Were Told More Tests Were Needed To Find The Cause Of Carbon Dioxide Levels That Made A Girl Faint Last Month.

Posted: October 15, 1999

Residents of Kennedy Crossing and the adjacent neighborhood of Cardinal View once again packed Plymouth Township's auditorium this week to learn the results of carbon dioxide testing that began nearly a month ago.

And, once again, they went home with unanswered questions.

Although officials from the Montgomery County Health Department and the federal Environmental Protection Agency said they had completed the first round of testing in most of the homes, they said additional tests were needed to determine the source of the unusually high levels of carbon dioxide that caused a girl to faint in her Kennedy Crossing basement Sept. 16.

Later that month, another Kennedy Crossing family asked whether high carbon dioxide levels might have contributed to their father's Sept. 23 death.

The carbon dioxide levels ``are not showing a pattern in either community,'' said Greg Herbert, director of environmental field services for the Montgomery County Health Department.

``A quick review suggests there aren't any trends,'' said Jack Kelly, EPA's on-scene coordinator.

``From the homes where some of the original incidents occurred, we've gotten readings from 500 p.p.m. [parts per million] to 90,000 . . . in the sump drains,'' said Kelly, adding that continuous monitors have been placed in four of the houses.

The level of carbon dioxide in a home should not exceed 600 to 1,000 parts per million, officials said.

Still, initial concern regarding the unusually high amounts of carbon dioxide, a naturally occurring gas, has ebbed somewhat, said residents and health officials.

``In terms of the danger, I think it's been blown out of proportion,'' said Joseph Flanagan, who said he had lived in Kennedy Crossing for 2 1/2 years without any problems. ``I think it's a natural phenomenon that came and went probably with [Hurricane] Floyd.''

Health officials said that despite fluctuating levels in and near some sump-pump drains, tests did not reveal high carbon dioxide levels in areas of the basement where people normally circulate.

Kelly said officials would perform a carbon-14 isotope analysis to determine whether the carbon dioxide is old or new, study the history of the land, and retest any home with a level at or above 5,000 p.p.m.

The goal is to determine what, if any, impact a number of factors - from heavy rains to using heaters - have on carbon dioxide levels, officials added.

``The hope is that it [the fainting spell] was a one-time event as a result of a natural occurrence,'' Kelly said, referring to an earlier theory that Hurricane Floyd and acidic floodwaters combined with the limestone-rich area to release the gas.

In the meantime, health officials said they were testing for carbon dioxide levels in five places in each house. The highest levels have been found in basement sump-pump drains. Tests also are being done on sump-pump covers, walls around the French drains, in the middle of the basement and on the first floor of the homes.

Another meeting has been scheduled for Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.

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