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HomeNewsArchivesCharles Harwood Reopens After Odor-Induced Closure

Charles Harwood Reopens After Odor-Induced Closure

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has given the Department of Health the green light to resume normal business hours at its Charles Harwood Complex on St. Croix Monday following a two-and-a-half day closure last week to conduct air-quality monitoring.
Employees were allowed to leave at 3 p.m. last Monday and Tuesday, and the complex was closed from 1 p.m. Wednesday through the end of the week because of "a malodorous episode exacerbated by last weekend’s power outage on that island," according to a Health Department statement.
"Power was out at the St. Croix complex for several hours over the weekend," Bedminster said. After the long Memorial Day weekend, there was some problem with the ventilation, she said.
Some workers, who asked not to be identified, said there was a bad smell in the air.
Health Commissioner Julia Sheen, who met with OSHA officials as late as Sunday afternoon, said that an odor in the building last week was due to a malfunctioning air conditioning system. The air conditioning unit has since been repaired, according to a Health Department Statement Monday.
Last week, Sheen met with Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls and one of his engineers and toured the building for an initial assessment of air conditioning equipment. Smalls said over the long term, the AC unit, which cools the 99,000-square-foot building must be frequently maintained to alleviate any future problems, according to a statement from Health.
Sheen and other Health officials also met with union officials, including in-house employee representatives, and officials from the V.I. Labor Department’s Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“OSHA found that it was oOK to resume operations, though they will continue to monitor the situation,” Sheen said. “Their investigation showed that the AC unit, which was not working properly, was the root cause of the problem."
Sheen said that employees who were sent home last week were to report to work Monday.
“I want to publicly thank them for their patience as we worked to rectify the problem,” she said. “I also want to thank those employees who came in to work, even while we were closed to the public, to accommodate clients who needed prescriptions filled.”
The Office of the Health Commissioner remained open during the nearly three-day closure, fielding calls from the public and ensuring that clients with emergencies received assistance.
"We still had some doctors, nurses and regular staff who came in and made sure clients who needed prescriptions filled were served," said Health Department Public Information Officer Eunice Bedminster Monday. Most of the complex’s roughly 230 employees went home on administrative leave, Bedminster said. Thanks to the administrative leave, those workers will all be paid for roughly two and a half days off from work.

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