Pagosa Peak Open School closes school temporarily due to carbon monoxide leak

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    A carbon monoxide leak from a boiler room located within Pagosa Peak Open School (PPOS) on April 9 caused the school to be temporarily closed.
    PPOS School Director James Lewicki explained in an interview on April 9 that he first identified the leak that morning when he entered the school at 7 a.m.
    According to Lewicki, when he entered the school he could smell gas, and a carbon monoxide detector was alerting in a classroom as well.
    Lewicki explained that he then opened some windows to help mitigate the problem.
    Upon entering a warehouse located at PPOS, Lewicki noted that more alarms were going off in that building.
    The Pagosa Fire Protection District (PFPD) was then notified and it was determined that the leak was coming from the boiler, Lewicki explained.
    “So it didn’t take long to realize I have to close school,” he explained, adding that the communication of school being closed was made by 7:20 a.m.
    After PFPD personnel arrived, Black Hills Energy and A-1 Services also arrived at the school.
    Lewicki noted that no students entered the building, nor did any Parelli employees.
    PPOS is located within the Parelli office building.
    “The few of us there were outside,” Lewicki said.
    The communication made to parents worked well, Lewicki explained, noting that they only had to turn away four cars that approached the school.
    As of the April 9 interview, Lewicki explained that the boiler leak was being fixed.
    According to Lewicki, not only was the boiler releasing carbon monoxide, but there were also leaks within gas pipes at the school.
    Those leaks within the gas pipes were discovered by Black Hills Energy when its personnel were checking for the carbon monoxide leak, he explained further.
    “With the gas leak, first they’ve got to be fixed and then we’ve got to do a pressure test on the whole system,” Lewicki explained.
    As of the interview on April 9, Lewicki indicated that it would take until the end of the day on April 10 to determine whether or not the school could be re-opened Thursday.
    PFPD Deputy Chief Karn Macht noted that Archuleta School District was made aware of the leak by Lewicki at 7:03 a.m. on April 9.
    “We arrived on scene and found 22 parts per million of CO [carbon monoxide] inside the building. And then narrowed it down to the boiler room, mechanical room, with the heaters,” Macht explained.
    Within the mechanical room, 158 parts per million of carbon monoxide were detected, Macht added.
    According to Macht, Black Hills Energy secured gas to the furnaces and they needed some repair and testing before the gas is turned back on in the building.
    “They’re working on getting that fixed and pressure tested before any other activity goes back,” Macht said of the gas pipe leaks.
    Macht noted that he was not sure how long the boiler itself was leaking.
    “It’s about time and CO levels. An eight-hour day at 22 is going to make you reactive to it and have headaches, nausea, vomiting,” Macht said of potential effects of exposure to carbon monoxide levels at that rate. “Our alarms go off at 22 parts per million.”
    According to Macht, at 30 parts per million, citizens should not be in that location without a self-contained breathing apparatus.
    The PFPD was at the scene until 8 a.m. on April 9, Macht added.