Tuesday, Sep 27, 2016
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Hazardous gas overcomes Michigan couple in home

MAYBEE, Mich. - A Raisinville Township couple were hospitalized Saturday after they were overcome by hydrogen sulfide gas that leached into the basement of their home from groundwater, authorities said.

Charles Trombley, 43, was in serious condition last night at the University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor. His wife, Linda, was released from the hospital yesterday.

The couple, who have several children, live at 1090 Yensch Rd., about four miles west of Maybee.

Groundwater in parts of Monroe County is plagued by higher-than-normal levels of sulfur, Rick Smith, chief of the London-Maybee-Raisinville fire department, said.

Chief Smith said recent rains caused water containing the gas to enter the basement after a sump pump failed. The gas was found at levels more than 13 times greater than normal.

“This is the first time I have ever heard of it being a problem [to require treatment],” the chief, a 26-year veteran of the department, said.

The family has been prohibited from occupying the home until it has been sanitized and tested again for the gas, he said.

The high levels of the gas found in the home prompted local officials to call for aid from the Monroe County Environmental Health Division and the Cleveland office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Chief Smith said.

According to the chief, one of the couple's children called the fire department at 12:11 p.m., saying his parents apparently had been electrocuted in the basement.

When firefighters arrived, they found Mr. Trombley in the basement face down in about four inches of water. His wife, who had gone to her husband's aid, also was found unconscious, lying face up on the floor.

Electricity to the home was shut off and the couple were removed from the residence and taken to Mercy Memorial Hospital in Monroe. From there, they were transferred to the University of Michigan Medical Center.

Several hours later, medical officials contacted the chief and told him the Trombley house should be checked for other problems. Doctors said their injuries weren't consistent with electric shock.

Later, firefighters returned to the house and using testing equipment found hydrogen sulfide levels on the first floor ranging from 43 parts per million to 75 parts per million. In the basement, the levels reached 130 parts per million. Normal levels are less than 10 parts per million, the chief said.

Seven firefighters who were at the house were treated the same day for symptoms from the gas at Mercy Memorial Hospital.

Chief Smith said hydrogen sulfide in high amounts can attack hemoglobins in the blood, inhibiting the blood's ability to carry oxygen.

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