Chattanooga government closes early because of foul-smelling fumes

Chattanooga government closes early because of foul-smelling fumes

December 14th, 2018 by Staff Report in Breaking News

Workers with Chattanooga Public Workers flush stormwater drains on East 11th Street after chemical fumes forced the evacuation and early closure of City Hall on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. A stormwater subcontractor spraying styrene into underground stormwater pipes caused non-toxic but noticeable fumes to spread into City Hall, according to Chattanooga Fire Department spokesperson Bruce Garner.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Foul-smelling fumes

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Corey Russell with the company Disaster Master carries a fan into City Hall after chemical fumes forced the evacuation and early closure of the building on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. A stormwater subcontractor spraying styrene into underground stormwater pipes caused non-toxic but noticeable fumes to spread into City Hall, according to Chattanooga Fire Department spokesperson Bruce Garner.

Corey Russell with the company Disaster Master carries...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga City Hall closed early Friday as foul-smelling fumes filled the building.

A subcontractor for the city's stormwater division had been spraying styrene to line the stormwater pipes underground. The resulting fumes spread through the pipes and into some openings for the pipes underneath City Hall, resulting in the building's evacuation Friday morning. 

Health effects from styrene exposure may involve the central nervous system and include complaints of headache, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, malaise, difficulty in concentrating and a feeling of intoxication, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The Chattanooga Fire Department gave the all-clear shortly before 10 a.m. and allowed people to re-enter the building. However, the area smells like drying paint, and employees were sent home at 1 p.m. That decision was made as a courtesy to its employees and out of an abundance of caution, according to Chattanooga Chief Operating Officer Maura Sullivan.

The city's public works department is working to flush the smell, and air monitoring has been done to ensure it is safe, she added. Crews from Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plan are running water through and venting sewer lines. 

Some personnel continued to work from other city-owned buildings nearby, while others were working the rest of the day from home. City Hall reopens Monday at 8 a.m.

Eleventh Street was temporarily blocked between King and Houston streets and from Houston to Lindsay streets.

Those wishing to pay their sewer bill can still do so by calling (423) 643-6311.

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.