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Strange Question...

Moms View Message Board: General Discussion: Archive October 2006: Strange Question...
By Tarable on Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - 05:19 pm:

Okay the sewage in our office building is backing up and it stinks to high heaven in here. We have no windows that open and the problem will not be completely fixed until Friday. Is there some kind of legal issue with making us work while this is going on?

Also is it possible that his could make me sick.. I have a horrible headache right now and I am nauseous.

By Ginny~moderator on Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - 05:25 pm:

I would call the Health Department immediately. I would not be surprised if they labeled the building uninhabitable until the sewage problem is fixed AND the building is thoroughly aired out and cleaned. I would also call my doctor and make an immediate appointment.

I do think it comes under the heading of intolerable working conditions, but better the Health Department or your doctor says so instead of you. Better yet, I am sure your firm carries workers' compensation - tell your manager you are sick and need to see a doctor because of the smells and odors, and wonder if you should see the firm's workers' comp doctor so that you don't have to pay a doctor bill or copay for a work-related condition.

But, you know better than anyone how your boss would react and how your firm would react if you claim workers' comp, so you have to be the judge. Still, I would see my doctor and if my doctor said my work situation is making me ill, get a note from the doctor and tell your boss that your doctor told you that the work conditions are making you ill.

Sewage, for grief's sake. That is really a health hazard. I'm surprised the building hasn't been closed already.

By Dawnk777 on Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - 05:29 pm:

Ewwww. I think Ginny gave you good ideas.

By Cocoabutter on Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - 07:41 pm:

This is not a strange question. Sewage gases are definitely poisonous and hazardous to your health.

Reference Data on sewer gases

Sewer gas is a generic name for the collection of gases and airborne agents that often accompany sewage and the natural processes and reactions associated with sewage processing and the decomposition of organic materials. The major components of sewer gas can include: nitrogen (N2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3), biological organisms, water vapor, and other chemicals discharged to the effluent stream.1,2 The presence and concentration of any of these components can vary with time, composition of the sewage, temperature, and pH.

* Nitrogen accounts for about 78% of the earth's atmosphere, and generally is not released from normally expected sewage reactions. It is not generated from the sewage, but its concentration in sewer gas may be effectively increased by the removal or consumption of oxygen through other means (i.e., rusting, other forms of oxidation or biological activity).

* Hydrogen sulfide is formed by biological and chemical processes in the liquid phase and is released to the headspace above the solution; its concentration in the gas phase is dependent upon its concentration in the liquid phase and ambient equilibrium conditions. At non-toxic levels, H2S has the familiar odor of rotten eggs. At acutely toxic levels, H2S quickly paralyzes an individual's ability to detect its odor, and will rapidly render a victim unconscious. Due to its relatively high toxic potential while at dilute concentrations, and normally expected air currents, the molecular gas density of H2S is often of secondary importance in predicting its movement or stratification.3 H2S gas is also flammable at concentrations which are well above toxic levels (Lower Explosive Limit 4.35%, Upper Explosive Limit 46%).

* Carbon dioxide and methane have little or no odor characteristics and have a saturated gas density approximately 1.5 and 0.6 times that of air, respectively. Their relative gas densities compared to air and potential for elevated concentrations may cause some gas stratification. Since both of these gases are generated while in solution, there may be higher concentrations at the liquid-air surface.

* Methane is extremely flammable, has a wide explosive range, and a low flash point. These characteristics result in a substantial fire and explosion hazard. Methane will also react with some oxidizers spontaneously. It is also possible to have other flammable gases in sewers that originate from spills and leaks of flammable liquids.

* Ammonia has a distinct, strong odor with good warning characteristics which are present well before attaining toxic levels. Exposure to elevated levels of ammonia also may act as an eye and mucus membrane irritant. It is unlikely that acutely toxic levels of this material would be present from common sewage reactions.

All of the above gases are colorless at the concentrations commonly encountered in sewage systems.

* Natural biological organisms and pathogens from sewage can become airborne, primarily through agitation, or other physical actions on the accompanying liquid, but generally these microbes are short-lived when suspended in air.

The major adverse health effects and hazards from exposure to sewer gases are:

1. Poisoning from H2S, Asphyxiation from displaced or consumed oxygen,
2. Decreased vigilance or fatigue due to reduced oxygen levels (from CO2 and CH4),
3. Biological contamination, and
4. Fires and explosions from methane gas, H2S or other flammable gases.

By Crystal915 on Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - 10:31 pm:

Ditto Ginny, call the health dept. That is NOT a safe work environment, and you shouldn't be exposed to it.

By Ginny~moderator on Thursday, October 5, 2006 - 05:59 pm:

Tara - update??? And, by the way, LOL - I am just now really appreciating your username.

By Tarable on Thursday, October 5, 2006 - 06:36 pm:

Well they had plumbers in overnight and they temporarily fixed the problem. The smell was much more mild through the building. I guess I have conflicting issues with calling the health dept. My BIL owns the company and I know that if he traced the call back to me he would be extremely upset and make my sis mad at me. I know that if the smell is not totally gone tomorrow I will be leaving work really early.

One of those things were I was kinda hoping that everyone else would call.

By Cocoabutter on Thursday, October 5, 2006 - 08:50 pm:

Boy, working for family really throws a monkey wrench into things sometimes....

I would have a serious discussion with BIL and sis about worker safety. Making you all work around poisonous gas is against the law, and he could get himself into trouble if it happens again.

If it were me, I would think about finding another job just to avoid this type of conflict of interest. Your job is not worth risking your health over, even if it is family.

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