Local News

Odor Drives County Workers From 3 Harnett Buildings

Posted April 17, 2007 3:04 p.m. EDT
Updated April 17, 2007 10:03 p.m. EDT

— Dozens of Harnett County employees were forced from three county buildings Tuesday morning after a strange odor began making people sick, authorities said.

Employees at the Department of Aging and the Department of Social Services reported the odor when they arrived for work, but many thought it was a cleaning product used overnight, said Gary Pope, director of Harnett County EMS.

Some employees reported feeling nauseated later in the morning, so the county ordered an evacuation of a three-building complex, including the county Health Department. About 160 workers were affected, Pope said.

"It was strong, nothing like I've ever smelled before," said John Rouse, director of the Health Department. "When people started getting sick, we evacuated the building."

Eleven workers were taken to Betsy Johnson Memorial Hospital in Dunn for treatment of symptoms ranging from dizziness to nausea to respiratory problems, Pope said. None of the injuries were life-threatening, he said.

Hazmat teams spent Tuesday afternoon swabbing walls and desktops and monitoring air inside the buildings to determine the source of the smell.

Investigators were unable to find a cause for the odor, so county officials decided to reopen the buildings Wednesday.