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Charles Harwood Complex Back in Business After Facility Problems

May 29, 2007 — The Health Department’s Charles Harwood Complex returned to normal operations Tuesday after several days without air conditioning and water, department officials said.
On Wednesday a water main burst. The eight-inch thick main carried chilled water from Charles Harwood’s large air-conditioning compressors behind the complex into the building’s interior air-conditioning system. Once water ceased flowing into the air-conditioning system, a large pump overheated and burned out, requiring a second repair in addition to replacement of the burst water main, officials said.
Executive staff, program administrators and directors came to work over the weekend and a methadone clinic remained open. Other staff stayed home over the long Memorial Day weekend. Repair and resumption of normal activities occurred right on the schedule Acting Health Commissioner Phyllis L. Wallace laid out in a press release last Thursday.
“The system has been back online since Friday,” said Health spokeswoman Eunice Bedminster. “But with work and digging still going on, we didn’t want to bring in the entire staff just to turn around and send everyone home if there were any problems.”
The Charles Harwood Complex houses more than a dozen clinics and is a major health-care supplier on St. Croix, particularly for those with limited financial resources. It has been plagued with well-publicized mold and air-quality problems. Mold in the air prompted the dental clinic to stop performing invasive procedures, such as wisdom-tooth extractions and root canals. Health officials determined the potential increase in risk of infection was unacceptable.
The mold is the result of a leaky roof and an unbalanced air-conditioning system, officials have said. Imbalances result in water condensation, which provides a haven for mold to breed. The imbalances include the air conditioning getting too cold, temperatures fluctuating a lot and too much warm, moist outside air getting in. The recent air-conditioning problem is not connected to the mold issue, however. The mechanical failure is entirely distinct from the causes of moisture and mold growth inside the building.
Sources within the complex suggested the pipe burst because the original piping was weaker than the necessary Schedule 80 grade of pipe. Department officials did not confirm this.
Right by the work site lies a section of insulated eight-inch diameter PVC pipe. The markings on that section say PVC 1120-200, indicating the pipe has a pressure rating of 200 pounds per square foot, which is the correct Schedule 80 pressure rating. The pipe is unused, suggesting the correct grade was used for the repair, but indicating nothing about the original pipes used when the system was installed.
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