DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — A year ago this week, hundreds of families were evacuated from the McDougald Terrace public housing complex after high levels of carbon monoxide levels were detected in their apartments.
The Durham Housing Authority moved the families to hotel rooms where some of them stayed for months while crews investigated the source of the carbon monoxide.
After inspecting 346 apartment units, the Durham Housing Authority found high carbon monoxide levels coming from 211 stoves, 38 furnaces, and 35 hot water heaters.
The housing authority then started replacing the appliances and they made the decision to replace all gas stoves with electric stoves.
While all of the families have been back home since around March of last year, housing authority officials told CBS 17 on Friday that 128 families are still waiting for their gas stoves to be switched out with electric stoves.
Durham Housing Authority CEO Anthony Scott said crews were forced to pause replacing the appliances when COVID-19 hit last spring.
Scott said that in order for crews to complete the electric service upgrades at the remaining 128 apartment units, those families will have to go stay in a hotels for 3 to 5 days at a time.
Scott said the housing authority does not think it’s a good idea to replace the appliances in the midst of a pandemic.
“We think it is advisable that we wait until the pandemic issues have subsided before we want to put people in danger of going to hotels and running the risk of having additional COVID cases,” Scott said.
Ashlee Craig lives at McDougald Terrace with her four children and her family is still waiting on their electric stove.
“I was told everything was going to be electric when we came back, and that didn’t happen. I don’t think a gas stove is as safe,” Craig said.
She said as long as everyone practices social distancing and wears a mask, she doesn’t understand why they can’t move forward with replacing her gas stove with an electric one.
“If we’re following the W’s, washing your hands and wearing a mask and all that, then why can’t they come in and fix what they need to fix?” Craig asked.
In addition to having to wait for an electric stove, she said she is also forced to deal with other problems in her apartment. For instance, she said her ceiling is bulging due to a burst pipe and she said her sink overflows when she does the dishes.
She said she put a call in to maintenance, but nothing ever gets done.
“Everyone should live comfortably, even if you don’t have a lot of money,” Craig said. “We already have to duck and hit the floor when they start shooting out here. So, let the inside be comfortable for us, because the outside is not.”
Scott said the 128 families who are still waiting on an electric stove did get a new gas stove when they moved back in last spring. Scott said there have been no reports of problems with carbon monoxide since all of the families moved back.
He said the housing authority is also looking at how they can improve their response to maintenance calls and work orders.