Strong odor alarms staff, patients at VA

By: Rob Hughes Email
By: Rob Hughes Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo (KKCO) Officials say the strong odor has created a learning experience for all parties involved. The VA hospital used a local company called WD Yards to kill weeds around the campus Tuesday evening. The company used federally approved, environmentally friendly herbicides. However, they do have a strong odor, leaving several staff and patients concerned for their well-being.
"We haven't really had anything that's exactly like this before," says Paul Sweeney, Grand Junction VA spokesman. Sweeney says nothing illegal or negligent was done. "The contractor sprayed a much higher volume than we expected." It was simply a disturbing odor that left several staff and patients at the VA nervous and uncomfortable. "This particular herbicide has a very strong scent, that scent was pulled into the air handling unit; so our patients were very concerned because of the heavy, oily smell," explains Sweeney. It's difficult to know exactly how many people noticed something out of the ordinary. "It was after normal business hours, I do know that the smell was around the ER, and a few other areas. It's very dependent upon what the air handler is doing automatically with the air, because it adjusts for temperature, humidity; there are a lot of things going on inside of it." But no illnesses or injuries from the odor have been reported. "Some people are sensitive to that scent; some people, they might get a headache; some people will say their eyes burn or itch a little bit," adds Sweeney.

The sub-contractor, WD Yards in Grand Junction, used two men for the job, and worked with a VA safety officer. "The people that knew we were doing the work were all aware of it, but I think our misstep there was that some of the other staff were not aware of what we were treating outside, and it caused some alarm for those people," says Bill Christensen, President of WD Yards. Christensen says the pre-emergent weed killer used has a unique smell. "You can smell it maybe up to a 100 yards away," he says.

Both Christensen and Sweeney agree the lesson learned is simple, but important. "We just need to inform more of the staff there at the VA the next time we're out there working," says Christensen.

This was WD Yards first time doing a job at the VA. They've been in business since 1985 and have never had something like this happen.
The VA does plan on doing business with them in the future.

VA officials say from now on they're only going to spray in the late evenings or on weekends.


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