- Associated Press - Sunday, May 10, 2015

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Recent test results are renewing concerns about air quality inside a northwest Iowa jail that was built on the site of a former gas station.

The Sioux City Journal reports (https://bit.ly/1FXzptL ) officials are looking at ways to address the concerns at the Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center before there are any health problems.

Health officials have been monitoring conditions for years with regular tests, but a test performed in the building last fall showed elevated levels of benzene.

Officials thought the problems were solved in 2003 when an air filtration system was added, but the recent tests suggest more steps may be needed.

Matthew Graesch with the state Department of Natural Resources said officials are looking for a better long-term solution to make sure petroleum vapors won’t cause problems.



Several holes were drilled around the building last month to assess the problem. County officials plan to meet with state officials this week to discuss what should be done.

“Things aren’t necessarily getting worse, but (tests are) showing that it isn’t going away by itself. So we’re going to take an active role rather than a passive role,” Graesch said.

Part of the problem is that when the jail was built, the soil from the former gas station wasn’t removed from the site. The building houses the jail, sheriff’s office and the courts.

Building Services Director Mark Elgert said the facility’s air filtration system is designed to bring in more fresh air whenever benzene is detected.

That $240,000 system was installed in 2003 after several employees complained of petroleum fumes in the building’s basement.

Woodbury County officials said they expect to take aggressive action this year to deal with the problem.

“It is a safe place to work and will continue to be,” Woodbury County Board Chairman Mark Monson said.

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, https://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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