Following complaints of carbon monoxide exposure at the aging McDougald Terrace public housing complex, Durham Housing Authority officials will allow about 340 people who live in 111 units to voluntarily evacuate to hotels, and officials were lining up ride shares to transport them to their new temporary accommodations Friday afternoon, WRAL reported

The decision comes after 11 residents have gone to area hospitals with complaints about exposure to carbon monoxide. Since November, two infants have died in McDougald Terrace. Late last month, the Fire Department told The News & Observer that the deaths were unrelated to carbon monoxide exposure. However, at a community meeting yesterday, a city official said the autopsies and medical examiners’ reports in the infants’ death had yet to be finalized, so it was possible there was a link to McDougald’s carbon monoxide problems. 

In the last week, DHA officials inspected more than 300 apartments and found that 13 units had gas leaks and six had elevated CO levels. The DHA also tested 258 residents’ carbon monoxide levels and found that four had elevated CO levels. 

At the community meeting, DHA officials attributed the carbon monoxide problems to residents using their ovens to heat their homes at night—which would, in itself, seem to indicate a heating problem.

On Friday, WRAL reported, a woman and children walked out of an apartment at McDougald after their CO detector kept going off. Firefighters said there appeared to be an issue with the alarm. On Thursday night, a building across the street was evacuated when someone smelled gas. A DHA crew was reportedly dispatched to fix the leak. 

“What can you tell me that would help me feel comfortable letting my kids go to sleep tonight?” Shaunkyra Douglas told WRAL. She lives next door to a family who lost a child. “They told me I had a gas leak coming from my hot water heater, and I did not even know.” 

She said her carbon monoxide detector has been beeping since Thursday, but no one has come to check on it.

DHA offices were closed when the INDY called Friday evening. 

Update (8:25 p.m.): On Friday night, the DHA emailed a statement: “Durham Housing Authority is conducting a voluntary relocation for all McDougald Terrace residents to hotels until carbon monoxide risks have been eliminated. The safety of our residents is our top priority, and we are taking immediate action to relocate everyone impacted while working with a cross-functional response team to stabilize the units. We are communicating directly with residents of the community and additional updates will be provided once the voluntary relocation is safely completed.”

Read WRAL’s developing story here

Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at 

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