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Air quality upgrades overdue at Closeleigh Manor

Upgrades to Closeleigh Manor's ventilation system are almost two months behind schedule but nearing completion, according to the Yukon Housing Corporation.

Upgrades to Closeleigh Manor’s ventilation system are almost two months behind schedule but nearing completion, according to the Yukon Housing Corporation.

In September the government held a tenant meeting at the seniors’ home after one its residents, Davina Harker, expressed concerns about the air quality in the building.

Harker said she first started experiencing health issues that ranged from memory loss to dizziness to chronic exhaustion in January 2013.

During the meeting the government announced that it had spent roughly $150,000 to upgrade the system and that additional work, such as relocating the air intake system and extending the chimney, would be completed by the end of October.

It took until the beginning of December for those final permits to be issued, said Doug Caldwell, spokesperson for the corporation.

He said the delays were caused by material for the new chimney arriving late for contractors.

All other work has progressed as planned, he added, and the rebalancing of the system will be completed in January.

That will be followed by additional testing to measure the efficiency of the upgrades.

In an open letter this week, Harker criticized the delays and continued to blame her poor health on the building’s ventilation system.

“A number of tenants, including me, do not feel well and some have been quite ill and may not understand why,” she wrote.

Fumes from vehicles that park and idle near the building get inside and make it difficult for residents to breathe, she added.

“At least six vehicles per day pull up to the entrance, idle in excess of five to 10 minutes, leaving a trail of fumes,” she wrote.

“Even a city bus, idling in the visitor’s centre parking lot, influence the air quality at Closeleigh Manor from the first floor to the third floor. I am distressed, sometimes intoxicated and ill by particulates, and very cold now that winter is upon us.”

This summer, the government made a number of improvements to the ventilation system.

It hired Northern Climate Engineering to investigate the air quality in the 32-unit housing facility and it determined there were a number of upgrades to be made, such as relocating the air intake and cleaning the entire ventilation system.

Other work was completed earlier in the summer. Air leakage issues were corrected and the filtration system was upgraded.

The housing corporation also hired a company to move the air intake system to a more isolated area on the building.

On Wednesday NDP housing critic Kate White raised the issue at the legislative assembly, calling on the government to complete its work at Closeleigh Manor and have air quality samples tested in an accredited facility.

Community Services Minister Brad Cathers responded by saying that he was confident in the Yukon Housing Corporation’s ability to complete the work at the building.

White followed up by saying she visited Closeleigh Manor last month and heard from residents who complained about “having foggy brains, breathing trouble, pains and disorientation.”

She asked whether Cathers would take immediate action to remedy the situation at the building.

Cathers said $250,000 in the 2014-15 capital budget was allocated to upgrade the ventilation system at the seniors’ residence.

He added that he would look into the situation and request an update from the housing corporation.

Contact Myles Dolphin at