Posted 9/02/14 (Tue)
By Stephanie Allums
Farmer Staff Writer
A total of 14 people were hospitalized on Sunday, Aug. 31, in Watford City after two people passed out and many others were vomiting after being exposed to Carbon Monoxide at the Watford City Express Laundry Center, located at 1101 2nd Avenue SE, in Watford City.
The Watford City Police Department and emergency medical services responded to a call around noon on Sunday that an 18-year-old female had passed out at the laundromat.
“I was folding my laundry when I saw a lady get sick,” said Andie Kellogg, who is a frequent customer at the laundromat. “I wasn’t sure what was happening, but she sat down at one of the tables, and as time went on, she seemed to get worse.”
According to Karolin Rockvoy with the McKenzie County Emergency Services, the young woman was taken to the Watford City hospital by ambulance. By the time they arrived, there was another report of a second person who had passed out at the same laundromat.
“Watford City Police Chief Art Walgren responded and called in the fire department and Montana-Dakota Utilities,” Rockvoy said.
Authorities evacuated about 30 people from the building.
“They told us all to leave our stuff and go outside,” Kellogg said. “Then the firemen showed up and made us all move across the street.”
By this time, many people were feeling and getting sick, including three law enforcement officers - one of which was the Watford City Police Chief.
“There were many people vomiting,” Rockvoy said. “It was not a pretty sight.”
A total of 14 people were taken to the hospital.
“We had to keep all of their clothes that they wore into the hospital and they will be properly washed,” Rockvoy said. “The Oil Field Ministries stepped up and helped by bringing clothing to all 14 people at the hospital.”
Everyone was released around 4 p.m. on Sunday, with no serious injuries.
After initial investigations at the laundromat, authorities discovered a PVC pipe that was supposed to be hooked to the boiler was disconnected, and pumping the exhaust fumes inside of the building, Rockvoy explained.
A chemical used to clean clothing called Graffiti Remover SAC, along with a bleach cocktail, was used on some of the clothing. When it’s put in the dryer with high temperatures it can cause a reaction and create Carbon Monoxide. The gas typically would travel through the PVC pipes and exit the building. But because the pipe was broken, it is believed that’s what caused so many people to become ill, Rockvoy said.
The main gas line into the building has been shut off and the Watford City Express Laundry Center will remain closed until further investigation is completed.
Responding and investigating agencies included the Watford City Police Department, the Watford City EMS and fire department, the McKenzie County Emergency Services, and the North Dakota Health Department.