Washington County VA

Jail installs detectors after carbon monoxide leak

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. - A carbon monoxide leak at a local jail prompted work to prevent it from happening again.

Prisoners were evacuated from the Washington County, Tennessee Detention Center after a carbon monoxide leak was found Saturday morning. Click here to read more.

We learned on Monday inspectors did a walk-through, checking everything from water heaters to ventilation.

Carbon monoxide is known as 'the silent killer' and it was leaking into two cell blocks inside the Washington County, Tennessee Detention Center. "It really worries me, not just for my son but for other peoples' family members," said Deborah Chambers, who was going to visit her son at the facility.

Inmates were complaining of nausea and headaches. One inmate actually had to be sent to the hospital after losing consciousness. "We got very lucky we had some officers who were sharp and on their toes or we could have had a very bad situation," said Leighta Laitinen with the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

A faulty water heater is to blame and the facility was quickly evacuated, allowing inspectors to check levels. "When I got here we immediately got our monitoring equipment and found some levels that were unsatisfactory to what we wanted," said Washington County, Tennessee EMA Director Nes Levotch.

The water heater in question has been fixed. But we learned it was inspected about three weeks ago and showed no problems.

We also learned the facility recently passed their jail inspection.

The big question -- are jails required to have carbon monoxide detectors? We checked with the Tennessee Corrections Institute and learned the answer is no, a carbon monoxide detector is not a standard jail requirement.

But installing carbon monoxide detectors in the facility is now a top priority. "I would like to have them tied into fire alarms so that it will alert our central control if we have a level getting to unsafe level anywhere in the building," added Laitinen.

We checked with other jails in our region about carbon monoxide detectors: Sullivan, Greene, and Unicoi counties all do not have detectors but are working to install units as soon as possible.

In Hawkins, Johnson, and Carter Counties, their detention centers also do not have carbon monoxide detectors.

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