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Carbon monoxide leak shuts Freeport plant

A day after a carbon monoxide leak at a Freeport packaging plant sent the owner and 27 workers to multiple hospitals, village officials called for a complete structural check of the building before it will be cleared to reopen.

J. Barrington Jackson, deputy village attorney, said the owners of the Freeport business and the building will need to perform an electrical survey of the wiring and inspect the heating and air-conditioning units, which are suspected of being the source of the leak.

Two workers at La Mar Plastic Packaging, at 216 N. Main St., collapsed because of exposure to the noxious gas Tuesday morning. Twenty-six others were taken to hospitals after experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure, which included headaches, nausea and dizziness.

The owner of plant, Marc Aronson, said all but one of the employees had been released from the hospital.

The facility remained closed Wednesday, according to Freeport officials, but Aronson and a skeleton crew were making arrangements for the inspections and fulfilling at least one order.

Aronson said the rest of the staff was home, pending the facility's safety clearance. It had not determined whether the workers would continue to be paid while away from the plant, Aronson said.

He was not certain if there were carbon monoxide detectors in the building when the workers got sick, he said, but installed two battery-operated detectors Wednesday.

"I'm going to do whatever I can do to make it right, because it was scary," Aronson said.

Readings of the air in the facility Tuesday showed upward of 500 parts per million of carbon monoxide, according to the Freeport Fire Department.

The permissible exposure limit is 50 parts per million in an eight-hour period, said officials with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Spokesman Ted Fitzgerald said Wednesday the agency's investigation into the incident is ongoing.

Jackson said the building hadn't, to his knowledge, had safety violations.

Other buildings adjoining La Mar Plastics also will be inspected by next Monday, Jackson said, but will remain open unless violations are discovered.

Aronson said he thought a new, more airtight roof and snow drifts may have prevented proper ventilation of the facility.

In the more than 20 years since the company has been in its current location, Aronson said they'd never had issues with carbon monoxide.

"I don't think you realize about carbon monoxide until it hits you like that," he said. "It happens very fast and you don't think it's that because you don't even smell it."

With Gary Dymski

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