Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Eatery reopens after gas leak

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Don Pablo’s Mexican Kitchen is fully operational again after a Friday carbon monoxide leak sent 11 people to the hospital.

The Laurel Volunteer Fire Department received a call about a suspected gas leak in the restaurant in the 14600 block of Laurel Place around 10:23 p.m., said Doug Walton, public information officer for the department.

Walton said the cause of the leak pertained to incorrectly installed HVAC equipment.

‘‘It was because of a ventilation issue,” he said.

When they arrived at the restaurant, firefighters found the highest level of the odorless gas in the kitchen, where the amount of carbon monoxide was four times the acceptable amount to which a person should be exposed over a period of eight hours.

Everybody in the restaurant was evacuated, Walton said.

Eleven adults at the restaurant complained of symptoms associated with carbon monoxide poisoning, such as nausea, fatigue and severe headaches. They were transported to Baltimore’s University Hospital, which is equipped with a hyperbaric chamber, used to force oxygen into the lungs to displace dangerous doses of carbon monoxide.

‘‘Everybody is doing well,” said Paul Seidman, a spokesman for Don Pablo’s Mexican Kitchen, based in Georgia. He would not release further information on the victims’ conditions.

The restaurant reopened Sunday morning, Seidman said, and a carbon monoxide detector is in place. Seidman could not say whether a detector had been present during the leak Friday.

Rachael Lighty, corporate communications consultant with Baltimore Gas and Electric, which provides electricity to the city of Laurel, said her company was called out to the restaurant Jan. 18 about a pressure problem but could not find anything wrong with either the gas line or meter.

‘‘We found no gas in the kitchen and as far as we know, nothing was wrong with our equipment,” she said. ‘‘The fire system is connected to the gas system so if there’s a pressure problem, then the fire system will make the gas system shut off ... as a safety precaution.”

She added that once gas enters a building, the problem is no longer BGE’s domain.

‘‘Once [a gas] gets into the building, it’s not something we monitor,” Lighty said.