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Seeping gas in Freeport sickens dozens

Carbon monoxide from what is believed to be

Carbon monoxide from what is believed to be a faulty heating system Tuesday morning forced the hospitalization of 25 workers at a Freeport packaging company, Nassau County fire officials said. The Freeport Fire Department responded to an emergency call from LaMar Plastic Packaging, 216 N. Main St., at about 10:30 a.m., said Vincent McManus, a district supervisor for the Nassau County Fire Marshal�s Office. Credit: Photo by Jim Staubitser

Carbon monoxide that seeped out from a faulty heating system at a Freeport packaging company Tuesday morning sent dozens of people to the hospital - two with serious injuries - Nassau County fire and village officials said.

Freeport firefighters responded to the emergency call from La Mar Plastic Packaging, 216 N. Main St., about 10:30 a.m., and rescuers evacuated dozens of people complaining of headaches, dizziness and nausea from the structure, said Vincent McManus, a district supervisor for the Nassau fire marshal's office.

After a preliminary investigation, fire officials, members of the Freeport Building Department and the county's hazardous materials team determined that the deadly gas came from hanging gas-fired heaters in the building, McManus said.

J. Barrington Jackson, deputy village attorney, said two of the first few people to be hospitalized had collapsed from carbon monoxide exposure.

In addition to 28 workers who were taken to Nassau University Medical Center and South Nassau Communities Hospital, about 20 more were treated at the scene and released, he said.

Mark Stuparich, an assistant chief for the Freeport Fire Department, said it was unlikely the building was equipped with a carbon-monoxide detector. "The thing would have been going off all morning," he said.

Stuparich, who said readings of indoor air showed upward of 500 parts per million of carbon monoxide, said a company principal may have been among those taken to the hospital.

According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, normal indoor levels are 5 parts per million or less.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the permissible exposure limit is 50 parts per million or less in an eight-hour period.

An OSHA spokesman said the agency is investigating the incident for safety standards.

The Freeport Building Department inspected the facility Tuesday afternoon, but has not yet released its findings, Jackson said. But he declined to say whether inspectors had found violations or whether they had determined if the facility had a carbon monoxide detector.

The company will be closed until it has been inspected for safety by a licensed professional engineer, he said. "We're going to make sure that the building doesn't reopen until it's fully declared safe," Jackson said.

La Mar company officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday. They did not return phone calls or e-mails. The website says the company is a family-owned and -operated firm, which has been in operation since 1965.

With Yamiche Alcindor

and Gary Dymski

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