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District Judge Declared Chambers Health Hazard

March 15, 1985

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) _ A district judge, declaring that his chambers are a health hazard, evacuated himself and his staff and pledged not to return until damage caused by a broken water pipe is repaired.

The water ran from the broken pipe for hours last Saturday before being noticed and turned off. Particulates, cellulose fibers, and formaldahyde gas apparently were stirred up by the disintegration of carpet and ceiling tiles, Jim Easton, program manager of the air quality control division of the El Paso County health department, said Thursday.

Judge Matt Railey, who took refuge Thursday in an absent judge’s chambers, said he made the decision to evacuate his own area after consulting with the county health department about the air pollution that resulted from the flooding.

″We have all felt a tightening of the chest. Our eyes water and our noses are irritated,″ the judge said.

Easton said the problem isn’t a cancer-inducing hazard but does cause upper respiratory problems. ″I recommended minimal contact with it,″ he said.

The corroded pipe that burst sent hot water gushing into the chambers and outer offices. A third of the ceiling tiles were destroyed; carpet became waterlogged and its seams opened. Panels came off the walls, and furniture was badly damaged.

Railey and his staff worked in the atmosphere for four days. His law clerk, Doug Miles, went home Wednesday, sick from the pollution.

Railey said he would have thought the repair work could have started by now. ″I’m not going to wait here any longer,″ the judge said.

Don Semon, county superintendent of buildings and grounds, said his office would have to get several estimates for the repair work. The next step is for an insurance adjustor to look over the premises. ″We hope it will occur soon,″ Semon added.

Railey said someone came in Wednesday and tried to glue the carpeting back together but ″it didn’t work.″ Some of the judge’s personal belongings were damaged in the flood, and he has been informed by the county that he will receive no compensation for his loss, he said.

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