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Tests show lead in air equipment used by Spokane firefighters

Spokane firefighters work to extinguish a two-alarm fire that consumed Tormino's Sash and Glass on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Further rounds of testing have discovered lead in two now-decommissioned compressors used to supply Spokane firefighters with breathable air.

The test results come from Veritox, Inc., a company out of Redmond, Washington, that the Spokane Firefighters Union hired to test samples from the two machines. Randy Marler, president of the union, said both compressors showed levels of lead on components near where the bottles are filled, though the chamber where air is injected has not yet been tested.

The two compressors were taken offline in November after an odor and contaminants were found in air bottles filled by the compressors. The Spokane City Council unanimously approved the purchase of two new compressors this week at a cost of $160,000. In the meantime, the department is using loaner bottles from surrounding fire departments.

Deputy Fire Chief Mark John said a higher concentration of contaminants was found in certain points of the compressors, but less near where bottles are filled. Results from the city’s testing were not available Wednesday.

National Fire Protection Association quality standards call for quarterly testing of air samples for levels of oxygen, nitrogen, argon, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other substances, but not lead. The metal was discovered as debris in the bottom of the bottles.

With these results, Marler said further testing would be necessary.

“We don’t expect to find lead anywhere near them, the fact is it’s unusual,” Marler said. “It’s unusual to the point where normal air testing standards wouldn’t even have us testing for lead.”

The two new compressors, purchased from Bauer, a California-based firm specializing in air purification systems, are expected to arrive in the next two months.