February 25

Ogunquit resort won’t be fined after leak of carbon monoxide sickened guests

The law doesn’t require detectors for most buildings that old, officials say.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

OGUNQUIT — A time-share resort where guests were sickened by carbon monoxide during the weekend won’t be fined, but it is planning to install carbon monoxide detectors in all 77 of its rooms, Ogunquit’s fire chief said Monday.

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Twenty-one people were sickened by carbon monoxide poisoning over the weekend at The InnSeason Resorts – The Falls at Ogunquit, a Route 1 time-share resort.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Leaking carbon monoxide sickened 21 people Sunday in a building at The InnSeason Resorts – The Falls at Ogunquit.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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Twenty-one people at the InnSeason Resorts – The Falls at Ogunquit suffered carbon monoxide poisoning Sunday, and seven of them were hospitalized. Fire Chief Mark O’Brien said the four-building complex on Route 1 did not have carbon monoxide detectors.

O’Brien said the resort will not face any sanctions for not having the detectors because a state law requiring them took effect long after the resort was built more than 20 years ago. State records show that its current owner was incorporated in 2000 and the law took effect in 2012.

A state panel that oversees heating system installers is investigating the incident to determine whether the propane furnace that malfunctioned was installed properly in 2006, and whether it was maintained adequately.

“At this time, it doesn’t look like they’re going to be fined or anything, but there might be some violations,” O’Brien said. “Everyone’s searching hard to determine who serviced this and when it was serviced.”

Although there is no set schedule for inspections of hotel furnaces, business owners are responsible for having their heating systems serviced regularly to ensure they are operating safely and efficiently, said Doug Dunbar, spokesman for the agency that includes the Maine Fuel Board.

O’Brien said the odorless, colorless monoxide leaked into the basement of one of the resort’s buildings after a joint between two pipes that vent exhaust from one of two propane furnaces separated. The gas then spread to the 12 rooms above. The other buildings were not affected.

Air tests showed levels of carbon monoxide at 300 parts per million. A level of 35 parts per million triggers carbon monoxide detectors.

The building was almost full, and 30 guests in all were affected. The seven who were hospitalized were treated with high concentrations of oxygen and released by 5 p.m. Sunday. Fourteen were treated with oxygen at the scene, and nine had already checked out and gone home, O’Brien said.

Officials contacted the guests who had left and informed them of the diagnosis, but all declined to seek medical attention, he said.

Fire officials praised the quick thinking of the reception desk clerk who called the Ogunquit Fire Department after guests in two separate rooms complained of nausea. “That was a good heads-up call that probably saved a lot of people from really serious injury or death,” said state Fire Marshal Joe Thomas.

The resort did not release the clerk’s name, and told a Portland Press Herald reporter and photographer to leave the property Monday. The resort issued a statement saying that the affected building will remain closed until heating systems can be evaluated and repaired. The resort’s other buildings were tested and found to have no elevated carbon monoxide levels, the statement said.

After the incident, the resort’s staff got an estimate for the cost of carbon monoxide detectors and the total came to $3,500 for detectors for 77 rooms, O’Brien said.

“They just need board approval to approve the cost,” he said.

DETECTOR LAW HARD TO PASS IN 2012

Bob Jones, a guest from Vermont, arrived at the resort Monday for a week’s vacation. He said he had not heard of the incident and, when told about it, said it made him a little uneasy.

The time-share resort is classified as a hotel, said Thomas. By law, hotels that have been built or remodeled since Aug. 1, 2012, are required to have carbon monoxide detectors. InnSeason Resorts – The Falls at Ogunquit has not had any significant renovations since that date, O’Brien said.

(Continued on page 2)

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Today's poll: Carbon monoxide

Should Maine law be changed to require that all hotels have carbon monoxide monitors regardless of the year they were built?

Yes

No

View Results