UWM students still feeling effects from carbon monoxide evacuation, as some parents weigh legal action

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MILWAUKEE (CBS58) -- Another carbon monoxide alarm went off Thursday at the same UWM dorm hundreds of students were forced to evacuate Monday night.


Students are frustrated with a lack of communication, and a Milwaukee attorney says some parents are considering legal action. All of the 17 students that were hospitalized Monday night have been released, but the attorney is concerned about potential long-term effects that could be very serious.

The university says Wednesday’s alarm happened during a test of a hot water boiler that had been shut down for repairs.

UWM Junior Oscar Lopez said, "I do genuinely feel it was a traumatic experience for all the students. I felt very nervous, panic. It was a very scary experience."

Lopez was hospitalized with a persistent cough and lightheadedness Monday night after the carbon monoxide leak was discovered in his dorm building.

He's a little better now, but says, "My roommate, he unfortunately had to be on an oxygen ventilator for four hours."

And his roommate is not alone. Milwaukee attorney Randy Rozek says UWM parents have been contacting his office about filing a notice of claim.

One family's daughter and her roommate went to urgent care Monday night thinking they had COVID or the flu or food poisoning. They tested negative for all, until urgent care administered a blood test.

Rozek said, "They found extremely high levels of carbon monoxide in the blood of these two girls, to the point where they transported them to St. Luke's for hyperbaric oxygen treatment."

Experts say carbon monoxide poisoning deprives oxygen to vital organs, and could trigger an inflammatory process that could develop over months. Rozek said, "There can be heart issues, sleep issues, vision issues, vestibular -meaning dizziness and balance- issues, all associated with brain damage."

Rozek says that could last a lifetime. He says state law requires carbon monoxide detectors in residential buildings where people sleep. UWM officials were not made available Thursday to explain why detectors were not in the building.

The university reimbursed students $100 to their gold account to be used for laundry, but many say it's not enough for their pain.

And UWM installed carbon monoxide detectors in common areas, but one student bought one himself, worried about his room. The students also want more information.

UWM Freshman Hunter Nachreiner said they need "More communication, if there is another disaster, telling us where to go or having more staff guide the students."

In an email to Cambridge Commons residents Thursday, UWM wrote "Please know that we have been monitoring the building on an ongoing basis since Monday. Your safety is our top priority. At the same time, we realize you may not have received as much information as you wanted during the evacuation. We apologize for that."

Another student said UWM permanently moved students out of their first-floor rooms to other locations, which is a challenge in the middle of the semester.

We requested the police report for Monday's evacuation, but four days later we're told it's still in draft form.

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