Doctors and patients can return to the medical office building at 261 James St. on Wednesday morning, authorities said on Tuesday night.
But investigators were unable to diagnose precisely what caused the respiratory distress that prompted the Morris Township facility’s evacuation and sent two people to the hospital earlier in the day.
“We’re not sure what it was. But it doesn’t seem to be there anymore,” said Township Police Capt. Rich Ferrone.
Township Fire Chief Scott Lovenberg authorized re-entry to the three-story structure at 10:15 pm, after his firefighters and the Morris County Hazardous Materials Team made one last sweep of the premises.
That sweep came about five hours after an employee of the Allied Surgical Group on the second floor dialed 9-1-1 to report that staff members and patients were gasping for breath. Some were coughing almost to the point of vomiting, according to the woman.
Two employees were treated at Morristown Medical Center and released. Seven other patients and employees were treated at the scene by emergency medical personnel with the Morris Minute Men.
“There are no readings of concern currently,” said Jeff Paul, a spokesman for the Morris County Office of Emergency Management. Members of the county haz-mat team, clad in breathing masks and heavy gear on a muggy night, combed the building with sophisticated air monitors, he said.
The building’s air conditioning purposely was shut down for much of their investigation; the investigators needed periodic breaks to keep from overheating.
People at the scene speculated the episode was caused by everything from pepper spray to cleaning chemicals to medical supplies.
While no cause was determined, Capt. Ferrone said “it appears to be possibly related” to the air conditioning and ventilation system.
Some minor work–a thermostat replacement–had been performed on that system on Tuesday, it is believed.
The local fire department, county haz-mat team and the Minute Men were assisted by firefighters from Madison and Morris Plains and the Morristown Ambulance Squad and New Vernon First Aid Squad.
and the Morris Twp Fire Department finished the last assessment at 10:15pmand determined that the building could be opened with normal operations resuming. All units are in the process of clearing the scene.