Eventually, thanks to county employee Mary Posko, the state stepped in and forced the county to take some steps to reduce whatever was floating in the air. Butz designated an employee whose sole job was to sweep floors to reduce dust.
After a few months, that employee disappeared.
Now the project has spread to the criminal division, law library and public defender's office. As Butz rushes to complete a contract that is $3 million over budget, there's a temptation to cut corners. And guess what? There's a lot more dust in the halls. Butz is also tearing out asbestos throughout three floors.
People are getting sick again.
In the Recorder's office, where I work, four title searchers simultaneously caught pneumonia. A physician told one of them that his pneumonia is a strain never seen before. One lady who works in the criminal divison tells me she throws up every evening when she gets home. Most have the same symptoms - itching, coughing, headaches and watery eyes.
One began keeping a diary in December, and I'll share some excerpts with you.
December 14, 2006: We experienced dry burning in our nasal passages and throats. Our eyes were burning and we had headaches. There was no strong smell but we had bittersweet tastes in our throats. I have asthma and had to start using my inhaler. We contacted a supervisor to find out what was happening, but he never got back to us. At the end of the day, as I was leaving, I noticed "asbestos warning " signs for the first time.
December 15, 2006: At 8:55 AM, my eyes are burning and my nasal passages are drying up. It is difficult to swallow so I have to continuously drink water. At 12:00 to 1:00 PM, I went to lunch and felt fine. At 1:55 PM, headaches are returning and my nasal passages are burning a bit now. I don't see particles in the air but something in the office seems to trigger these effects. I didn't feel this way at lunch or when I'm at home. Something in this office air is definitely making us sick.
December 20, 2006: I was off the past two days and felt fine. Now, my eyes and nasal passages are irritated again.
December 21, 2006: It's really bad here today. My nasal passage is itchy and I have a hard time breathing. My arms and chest itch. My face is flushed and I have a rash on my neck and chest. When I ran an errand to the criminal division, I saw a construction worker wearing a mask with two round filters. The doors to a courtroom were open and there was a fog on the floor. I don't know if that triggered my allergies but the itching inside my nose was horrible.
December 22, 2006: Last night, after leaving the courthouse, I had an asthma attack. I had to use my inhaler and take benadryl. At 10:20 AM, my entire body is beginning to itch. My face and arms are blotchy.
December 23, 2006: There was a very strong gas smell in the office and in the corridors. This smell lasted the entire work day, and everyone complained about the smell. I had a headache. It was as if some house gas pipe had broken.
December 26, 2006: I've been itchy all morning with a dry cough and burning eyes. I can't take it anymore. I'm getting nauseous. I have to go home.
December 28, 2006: I have a bittersweet taste in the back of my throat again. I'm coughing and my eyes are dry.
January 2, 2007: This morning I'm itchy all over and am getting a headache. My eyes are watery. After lunch, the headache got much worse. Demolition is going on directly above me. Side doors have been open most of the morning, letting dust come right into my working area. The hallway is cloudy. Whenever I closed one of the hall doors to avoid breathing dust, someone would prop the door open.