County finds carbon monoxide issues at Key Landing
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 10:26

County says all 125 deficient units are fixed

by Ben Boehl

    All Chevera Brown wanted was a safe place to live. She claims she is not getting that.
    She and her family have been tenants at the Key Landing Apartments in West Inverness since 2009.
    Key Landing is owned by Silver Spring-based Southern Management Corp. Brown claims that management at the Dundalk office and at corporate headquarters did not get proper repairs done.   
    Things did not appear to be that bad, she said, until she discovered that she and her family had suffered carbon monoxide exposure.
    Brown said that family members kept having headaches and that she had a sinus infection that would not go away.
    She said she knew this winter was a rough flu season and at first blamed that for not being able to shake her illness.
    After having what she described as a massive headache, Brown went to the emergency room at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center on Feb. 28 where, according to medical records she provided to The Eagle, doctors diagnosed her with carbon monoxide exposure.
   

“I thought my headache was from stress or the mold. It was a complete shock that it was carbon monoxide,” she said.
    When she returned home, she called in the Key Landing maintenance crew to fix the HVAC unit.
    Brown said that crews came out and fixed the leak with a rubber gasket, but another family member had similar symptoms and went to the emergency room at Franklin Square Medical Center on March 3.
    After it was confirmed he had carbon monoxide exposure, Brown said the management company did not properly fix the HVAC unit and she decided to call county authorities.    
    Lionel Van Dommelen, chief of code enforcement for Baltimore County, confirmed that Key Landing had multiple violations. The most serious issue was with carbon monoxide exposure in the utility rooms, he said.
    “They had carbon monoxide issues, and they needed to get a licensed gas fitter,” Van Dommelen said.
    The county did check all 504 units; roughly 125 were found to have some type of deficiency, including six with CO leaks, according to Van Dommelen.
    “Many of the PVC vent pipes were not glued, but that does not necessarily mean they were leaking. Six units showed CO leaks, but were still within safe limits,” Van Dommelen told The Eagle.
    The county ordered Key Landing to hire an outside contractor for the repairs and to have all the HVAC units checked.
    Brown also recalled that there appeared to be mold in her furnace room, and said that two pipes to the HVAC unit were not connected.
    The county said no disconnected pipes were found, but Van Dommelen did confirm that mold was found in one unit.
    “Management was advised to get a certified abatement contractor to evaluate and abate,” Van Dommelen said.
    “Management replaced the wood flooring and they are waiting on the results of the mold test.”
    According to the county,  Key Landing was cooperative and avoided a $30,000 fine by getting the units repaired by the specified compliance date of April 10.
    The county will still investigate Key Landing, but Van Dommelen said all the deficient units have been repaired.
    “We will do spot checks,” he added.   
    Pam Martin, community relations director at Southern Management, acknowledged that there was an incident of carbon monoxide exposure but disputed Van Dommelen’s claim that over a quarter of the Key Landing units had deficiencies.
    “To my knowledge, we did not have to replace a quarter of the units. We had one resident unit [with carbon monoxide exposure],” Martin said.   
    Brown said she is upset with Southern Management and said she is fortunate that things did not get worse.   
    “Me, my children and my neighbors that I see every day, could have all died in here because they wouldn’t get an experienced licensed person to put in an HVAC unit,” Brown claimed. “They lied to me. When you enter a lease, you trust them with your belongings, your family and your life.”
    Asked why she did not  simply move somewhere else, Brown said it is not that easy to leave, since her son is a senior at Patapsco High School.
    She added that moving to a new residence would be costly and she could run into the same problems elsewhere.
    “That’s what they want you to do. They want to bully you so you will leave,” Brown said.
    “If you don’t stand up for yourself, it will continue no matter where you go. How far can you really run?”