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Library smell linked to elevator pit

December 3, 2012
By J.T. Whitehouse , Town Crier

The Poland Branch of the Public Library remains closed as the investigation into a strange odor continues. A firm hired to investigate the odor has found a concentration of hydrogen sulfide in the library's elevator pit. As of Monday morning, library officials said the branch will remain closed this week as further testing is taking place.

After concerns over the odor and numerous calls to the fire department to investigate, library officials decided to close the branch for safety reasons on Nov. 16.

"The safety of our staff and patrons is our primary concern," said Library Director Heidi M. Daniel. "In remaining proactive, the library has contacted the Ohio EPA, Mahoning County Board of Health and the Mahoning-Trumbull County Air Pollution Control Agency."

The odor had become stronger the week it was closed, but the source was unknown at that time. Since then, a testing company was brought in to pinpoint where the odor was coming from. Environmental consultants Lawhon & Associates Inc., headquartered in Columbus, was brought in to evaluate the air quality problem. In the meantime, all events at the library were either cancelled or moved to other locations.

On Wednesday, Nov. 28, library officials received preliminary results from the testing, and were told that some samples are still being analyzed. The recommendation of the consultant is that the library remain closed pending additional tests.

According to information from library officials, Lawhon & Associates had performed extensive air and water testing in the library. The tests showed a sample taken from the elevator pit showing a level of hydrogen sulfide that could cause problems. The elevator pit is a small enclosed space below the elevator, where the air is in a confined area. The elevator has been sealed off and ventilated.

"They sealed the elevator shaft in plastic and isolated it from the library," said library Public Relations Director Janet Loew. "That way they could test the elevator shaft alone."

Lawhon & Associations summary report notes, "The likely source of the odor is the water in the elevator sump pit. The sump pit may be serving as a conduit for contamination in shallow ground water to enter the indoor environment."

Further tests are under way, including placing a dye in the creek to see if it was a source for the contamination, but in the meantime the branch will remain closed. The book drop off will remain available, but patrons dropping books off are asked to stay away from catch basins in the drive and parking lot area. Barriers will be placed around the catch basins by the weekend.

The library will be promptly reopened as soon as health and safety experts indicate to library officials that the Poland branch can be reopened without unusual risk to the public and library staff. The library knows of no situation where anyone was harmed or became ill from being in the library branch prior to the closing.



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