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Sewer gas slows prep for election

Lawrence County Election Board workers closed shop Wednesday due to an apparent sewer gas buildup in their downstairs courthouse office.

Thursday, October 28, 1999

Lawrence County Election Board workers closed shop Wednesday due to an apparent sewer gas buildup in their downstairs courthouse office.

Plumbers found the problem – a gap in a toilet pipe seal – by mid-afternoon and made repairs, board director Mary Wipert said.

"We’re hoping this new seal has the problem corrected," Mrs. Wipert said.

Employees had worked for several hours in the county extension office across the first floor hallway, before returning about 3 p.m.

An Ironton Fire Department crew detected only trace amounts of sewer gas, a methane-type byproduct of solid waste, Ironton Fire Department Chief Tom Runyon said.

Detectors cannot measure the exact level, but it has not been in the flammable or explosive range, Runyon said.

"But it doesn’t take a whole lot of sewer gas to create a nasty odor," he said.

Election workers noticed the offensive smell last week, and began suffering from headaches, nausea and sore throats.

Plumbers investigated, then capped an open sewer line inside one of the board office walls, but the problem didn’t go away immediately, Mrs. Wipert said.

"We felt we couldn’t shut down, so we kept working, but we couldn’t go beyond today," she said Wednesday.

The board shut its doors one other time because of offensive odors, probably due to the same seal problem, Mrs. Wipert added.

"They figure from the time the toilet was installed it didn’t fit properly around the sewer line," she said.

The pipe from the toilet did not join completely to the main line inside the wall, she said.

Although the problem seems fixed now, the board had been worried about working Tuesday’s election under the potentially unhealthy conditions, Mrs. Wipert said.

"It could’ve been a problem," she said. "How could you expect extra help to come in."

Board employees likely would have had to work out of its office anyway, Mrs. Wipert added.

"There’s only one way of counting votes and we can’t move the equipment," she said.