Academic Office Building first floor air quality questioned; faculty, staff moved out

Feb. 8, 2016

Evan Musick
[email protected]

Coughing, congestion, headaches and burning eyes have led to the relocation of faculty and staff from the first floor of the Academic Office Building to other parts of campus.

Ron Honn, program manager for Environmental Health and Safety, said the complaints began in November 2014, eventually leading to the relocation of multiple departments to different areas of the university.

The Academic Office Building was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 18, 2014.

Honn got involved in finding the source of the trouble in February 2015. In March, a problem in the sewage was identified.

“There were some problems at one time, where we found a sewage line that was broken, but that was corrected,” said Honn.

The staff of the Graduate School and the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research Integrity moved into the first floor of AOB the week of Thanksgiving 2014.

Within a month, Kelli Klebe, dean of the Graduate School, said she started noticing problems.

“We started smelling sewer smells and reported them around Christmas time,” Klebe said in an email. “I personally sent an email to the facilities people around middle of February 2015 based on negative reactions that we thought were due to the sewer.”

Symptoms persisted, resulting in those that worked on the first floor being relocated to other parts of the university.

“I moved out of the building at the end of November 2015. I felt so much better that I asked that my staff, some of whom were still experiencing negative effects that we attributed to the building, be moved as soon as
possible,” said Klebe.

UCCS reached out for help in December 2015 to the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the Colorado School of Public Health to conduct air testing.

They are “going through everything we’ve done so far,” said Honn in regards to testing the air quality. Eventually, the department will give a recommendation, and UCCS will work with an industrial hygiene company to implement a solution.

According to Klebe, the rest of the Graduate School staff was moved out in January. The rest of those waiting to move from the building are in the process of having furniture ordered for their space in University Office Park, which is located across the street from the campus greenhouse.

Gary Reynolds, associate vice chancellor for Campus Planning and Facilities Management, said other AOB residents have been moved to Main Hall.

“We want to make sure, before we move any one back in there, we’re not subjecting anyone to anything,” Honn said.

Reynolds said the complaints have been limited to the first floor, which comes in from the parking lot near Austin Bluffs Parkway.

He added that the same materials used to construct AOB were used in other buildings around campus.

“That’s why it’s such a mystery,” he said.

“The campus has been responsive to my concerns and experiences which is why they have moved us and they continue to work to determine the problem,” said Klebe.

Honn has moved into AOB’s first floor to be a closer resource for those affected.

“I’m hoping we can have this resolved before the semester is over,” Reynolds said.