July 8, 2008

Day Care Reopens After Odor Investigation

By Brian Hughes, The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Jul. 8--The parents of nearly 200 children had to scramble today to make alternative day care arrangements after health officials shut down a Colorado Springs center because of a foul odor from a drain that left employees feeling ill.

The gassy stench Monday morning at KidsKare Child Development Center, which primarily serves Memorial Hospital employees, forced parents to pick up their children early and led to an all-night investigation by the El Paso County Health Department, maintenance workers and plumbers at the Printers Parkway center.

All of that could have been avoided if someone had poured about a gallon of water down the drain.

For some, it's plumbing 101. When a methanelike sewer smell comes from a drain, pour water down to make sure the odor-blocking trap is filled with water.

"These things just happen," said Chris Valentine, spokesman for Memorial Health Care System, which owns the building. "If you get a strong smell, that's the first thing you do."

Unfortunately, no one thought to do that until late Monday, and parents had to search for other day care options today.

KidsKare Executive Director Al Rowlison said day care workers began smelling the odor last week and reported it to maintenance. Maintenance workers were unable to pinpoint the source and when the smell worsened, the children and day care workers moved to a north-side room away from where the odor was strongest.

When health officials arrived to investigate Monday, they ordered the center closed and the children sent home because of the potential risk and the overcrowding in the room.

Maintenance workers had neglected to pour water down the drain in a south-side sprinkler room, Rowlison said.

The fumes in the two-year-old, 16,000-square-foot building weren't dangerous, he said.

The health department gave the center the OK late today to reopen this morning, Rowlison said.

He said if the shutdown had lasted longer, it could have put the center out of business.

Valentine said investigators conducted a variety of safety tests, including checking for cracks in pipes.

The phone rarely stopped ringing in the empty day care center Tuesday afternoon, although Rowlison said he hadn't heard from any angry parents yet.

"If they're ticked off, and I'm sure they are," he said, "they're not showing us."


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