A preliminary report by an environment consultant shows hydrogen sulfide present in the elevator pit of the Poland Library and recommends the building remain closed.
The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County hired Columbus-based Lawhon & Associates Inc. for $29,000 shortly after closing the Poland branch Nov. 16 because of an unusual smell, said Janet Loew, library spokeswoman.
The hydrogen sulfide is at a level “that could cause problems” and was found in the elevator pit, a small enclosed space below the elevator that has been sealed off and ventilated, Loew said.
Hydrogen sulfide is a hazardous gas known for a rotten-egg smell, and its health effects vary depend- ing on the length and level of exposure, but low concentrations can irritate eyes, nose and throat.
“The likely source of the odor is the water in the elevator sump pit. The sump pit may be serving as a conduit for contamination in shallow groundwater to enter the indoor environment,” the Lawhon & Associations summary states.
The library also has contacted the Mahoning County District Board of Health, the Mahoning-Trumbull Air Pollution Control Agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
The Ohio EPA was notified of the situation earlier this week, said agency spokesman Mike Settles.
“We’re going to go out and do sampling of outfalls, where stormwater from library property would discharge to the Yellow Creek, to see if they could be contributing to the odor and see if there are any concerns,” Settles said.
He said state EPA workers will be at the library this week to take samples.
Loew said no tests have shown the library to be the source of the problems and that the library knows of no situation where anyone was harmed or became ill from being in the building branch before its closing.
The library also is installing a barrier around the catch basins as a precaution, she said.
“We took proactive steps for the safety of the staff and our patrons to close the branch and to investigate what’s going on. We anticipate it will be closed the rest of the week,” Loew said.
She said different odors had appeared over the last couple of months at the library, but were mild and quickly dissipated.
Poland staff members were reassigned to other branches, and all programs remained canceled until the library reopens.
“With Poland closed, you would have a lot of traffic going to Struthers and up to Boardman, and I’m sure we’ll see a spike in circulation at those branches,” Loew said.
It’s not just library patrons missing out while the building’s closed. Kravitz’s Delicatessen is located in the Poland branch and had to move catering events it had scheduled.
“We’ve gone from busy to nothing. It’s a little challenging; we weren’t really expecting to close down,” said owner Jack Kravitz.
The deli has filled Poland orders at its Liberty location and moved catered events to Holy Family Parish Center when it could no longer use the 200-seat library meeting room. When customers call the Poland location, they are automatically redirected to the Liberty deli.
“Some people heard that we were closed in Poland, but it’s not permanently closed. It’s a temporary closure while the library’s closed, and we can make any arrangements to help [customers]. We will reopen when the library does,” Kravitz said.
The library’s current building was completed in 2001. The new building incorporated an old brick building that had housed the library since 1965.
In 2004, flooding from Yellow Creek caused the Poland Library to be closed for one day. Several inches of water gathered in the library’s lower level, and water covered the parking lot, according to Vindicator files.