Tests confirm toxic chemicals inside Roxborough fire station

ROXBOROUGH - March 11, 2014

As Action News was first to report, Engine 66 closed its doors in December. The union says firefighters had raised concerns about smelling hazardous fumes inside the station for months.

"The problem is we do not know how long our members have been exposed to these chemicals. And in reality there should be no chemicals found within the station," said Joseph Schulle, union president.

The extensive report identifies multiple chemicals present in and around the station. They are mostly gasoline byproducts like butane and methane. The firehouse is surrounded by gas stations.

"Many of the chemicals are carcinogens, so they do cause cancer and that is what our main concern is," said Schulle.

At first Schulle says the city refused to turn over the test results to the union, following the evacuation of the firehouse.

"It is frustrating and it lends you to believe that there is something going on that they don't want us to know," said Schulle.

Schulle appealed the denial, and Tuesday was provided with 42 pages of results. However the city confirmed in a telephone interview that not all the tests were turned over.

"There were some samples that were taken by the fire department's hazmat unit on the initial day of the event and through an oversight those materials may not have been included," said Risk Management Deputy Director Barry Scott.

Scott says all the chemicals found were two to three levels beneath the threshold of concern identified by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"There are chemicals of concern, but frankly they are nowhere near any levels of concern," said Scott.

"Although they are within acceptable standards, the standards that are given are not made for firefighters that are living in this environment continuously," said Schulle.

Right now no date has been set to reopen the firehouse.

"What is more troubling out of the report is it still appears there is no source detected as to where the chemicals are coming from. That being the case, if there is a bigger release or a continued release we can see a rise in the level of vapors in the station," said Schulle.

Risk management officials say they will get those remaining reports, which measured carbon monoxide levels, to the union on Monday night.

The City of Philadelphia says they have no plan to reopen the station until they can determine what is causing the fumes, so they can mitigate any potential issues and make certain the firefighters are safe.

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