My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Strange News Of The Day: Western Colorado Census Office Raided By Feds

Very interesting story here from the Grand Junction Sentinel:

Feds checking for violations of safety laws at census office

By Gary Harmon
Sunday, June 27, 2010

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation into the U.S. Census Bureau office in Grand Junction, which earlier this year was inundated by fumes from a marijuana-growing operation in the same building.

A person who worked in the building at 573 W. Crete Circle, meanwhile, said as many as a dozen claims might be filed by census employees affected by pesticide fumes from the nearby operation, which shared a ventilation system with the census office.

The inspection is intended to determine if there were violations of federal workplace-safety laws as a result of the fumes flowing into the offices, Herb Gibson, area director for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said Friday.

The agency’s inspection “is open, and I would say it will stay open for a few more weeks,” Gibson said.

Inspectors have visited the census office, where Gibson said officials are in the process of making modifications to the ventilation system.

A Mesa County grand jury last week declined to indict the three people who owned the marijuana operation.

Still, a former office employee, who asked not to be identified, said some people who worked there, including the employee, have suffered ill effects from the fumes, which were those of pesticides used to protect the marijuana plants, census officials said.

Even though officials point to the pesticides, other odors were unmistakable, the employee said.

“You walk in the front door, and you feel like you’re at a Bob Marley concert,” the employee said.

Even after leaving the office, the employee said pain and coughing developed to the point that the employee had to be hospitalized for several days.

“I was screaming in pain” and forced to double over by the coughing, the employee said. “It felt like it was burning me from the inside.”

The employee has been in contact with other people from the office who have been hospitalized. Some are preparing or have prepared workers’ compensation claims as a result of their exposures in the office, the employee said.

Officials with the census and federal Office of Workers Compensation said they couldn’t discuss claims from the Grand Junction office.

There is “a legitimate concern with invading the privacy of our workers — given the fact it is such a small office, there is a particular concern that providing any such information could lead to an improper disclosure that would lead to an invasion of the individual’s privacy,” Mark Hellfritz, assistant regional census manager in Denver, wrote in an e-mail.

The employee said the Census Bureau was contemplating a civil suit against the marijuana-growing operation, but Hellfritz said the bureau “is not considering any actions” against the marijuana-operation owners.

OSHA would look at any workers’ compensation claims as part of its inspection, Gibson said.

In addition to coughing and respiratory problems, the employee said other symptoms included migraine headaches, extreme pain in swallowing and even breathing, and delirium.

Although the symptoms have eased since leaving the hospital, “I still have a whole bottle of morphine,” the employee said. “I’m saving it in case it happens again.”

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11 Responses to “Strange News Of The Day: Western Colorado Census Office Raided By Feds”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    offtopic -1

  2. Anonymous Says:

    When is a “visit” considered a “raid”?

  3. Enumeratrix Says:

    “Strange News,” all right. This is the kind of story that raises more questions than it answers–substantive and otherwise. (E.g., why was someone given morphine to treat breathing difficulty? ) It will be interesting to read any follow-ups. In the meantime, it’ll make for great barroom discussions.

  4. HungerforFood Says:

    I heard the 7-11 next door ran out of food.

  5. Anon Says:

    Come on….raided? Get real. Yet another case of SRM trying to turn a non-story into a story.

  6. Dave Says:

    This story doesn’t pass the smell test. I’d bet some, if not most, of the claimants are scammers like the ones who sneak in the back door of a crashed bus, then stagger out the front door feigning injuries.

  7. Ex-IT Says:

    One real problem with safety at times during U/L and NRFU was the over-stuffed LCO’s. Too many boxes and clerks working in offices that did not have nearly enough space. Boxes were stacked way over the five-foot limit and aisle between them way under the 3-foot minimum. We had a few close calls with falling boxes and I always worried about safe evacuation in case of fire or other emergency. Thankfully, it is not as bad now.

  8. James Says:

    Interesting story, but phony headlines. So, if the blogger called the police after seeing a hit and run accident would it be fair to say “Census blogger questioned by police?” It would be accurate, but it’s nonsense. He must be shooting for a job at Faux News.

  9. Jax Enumerator Says:

    SRM, are you a Republican?

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Today’s “The More You Know…” word of the day: RAID – v. (reyd) ME 1300ish – a sudden assault or attack

    Word History: Few soldiers traveling a road to carry out a raid would connect the words road and raid. However, both descend from the same Old English word rād. Old English rād meant “the act of riding” and “the act of riding with a hostile intent; that is, a raid,” senses that no longer exist for our word road. The ai in raid represents the standard development in the northern dialects of Old English long “a”.

    Synonyms: arrest, assail, assault, blockade, bomb, bombard, breach, break in, bust, capture, charge, descend on, descent, despoil, devastate, fall upon, fire on, forage, foray, forced entrance, harass, harry, heat, hit and run, incursion, inroad, invade, invasion, irruption, knock off, knock over, lean against, lean on, loot, maraud, march on, onset, onslaught, overrun, pirate, plunder, pull, raid, rake, ransack, reconnaissance, rifle, rob, roundup, sack, sally, sally forth, shell, shoot up, slough, sortie, storm, strafe, strike, surprise attack, sweep, swoop, tip over, torpedo, waste

    Use in a sentence:
    Western Colorado Census Office Invaded By Feds
    Western Colorado Census Office Looted By Feds
    Western Colorado Census Office Torpedoed By Feds
    Western Colorado Census Office Assaulted By Feds
    Western Colorado Census Office Captured By Feds
    Western Colorado Census Office Charged By Feds

  11. Anonymous Says:

    I work in an LCO which had a flee infestation. An exterminator was called in and sprayed the whole office for flees in the middle of the afternoon/evening shift! Many took their dinner break when the exterminator showed up, but fumes remained for hours and of course some had to remain though the spraying to scan EQ into PBOCS (or else I’m sure the RCC would be quick to call and b!tch at us). A week later and again people were itching and complaining, so the exterminator was called out again (fortunately during the day shift, so they got to experience it as well). Hearsay a la the managers was that it was safe, but it certainly wasn’t pleasant to smell the pesticide stench for ~4 hours!!!!!