Chemical causes evacuation of county administration building

Bryan Wroten

Exposure to a chemical gas caused an evacuation of the Portage County Administration Building in Ravenna yesterday. Sixteen employees were treated at Robinson Memorial Hospital.

County Commissioner Christopher Smeiles said the evacuation happened at about 12:30 p.m. He said a community service worker mixed Clorox and toilet bowl cleaner while cleaning a bathroom on the second floor of the building. He said the mixture released a gas, which made several employees feel sick.

It was most likely chlorine gas, said Ted Gerack, Robinson Memorial Hospital director of emergency medical services, but it hasn’t been confirmed yet.

“The amount of Clorox and toilet bowl cleaner wasn’t sufficient enough to cause serious damage,” said Christine Isenberg, Robinson Memorial Hospital director of marketing and public relations.

She said chlorine gas is a respiratory irritant, which causes some breathing problems, headaches, nausea and/or vomiting. Isenberg said everyone was given oxygen and, if necessary, albuterol, which is used to treat asthma.

Trisha Hubbard, clerical worker, said she was taken to the hospital after coughing and passing out in the office. Her family sat in the waiting room for her release for nearly three hours. Hubbard was released to go home at 4:30 p.m, and said she is feeling much better.

Ellen, Hubbard’s mother, said it was very frustrating not being able to see her daughter and only being told “everyone’s all right.”

As of 5:45 p.m., Gerack said all 16 people receiving treatment had been released.

Smeiles said the Portage County Hazmat team inspected the building and cleared it to open today at 8 a.m.

Contact public affairs reporter Bryan Wroten at [email protected].