ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Cleanup continued Tuesday after a heating system failure caused water damage and disrupted operations at the Minnesota Department of Health's laboratory.
The department said the failure happened early Monday, causing heating coils within the air handler system to freeze and water to leak on several floors. Damage could top $1 million.
Crews have stabilized heat in the building and begun repairing broken parts of the heating system, the department said. Crews also are removing damaged building materials and repairing electrical equipment. The heating system is expected to be fully restored Wednesday.
Officials said the infectious disease and newborn screening labs may be able to reopen Wednesday. But the second-floor environmental lab sustained the worst damage and will take longer to repair.
Minnesota Department of Health spokesman Doug Schultz told Minnesota Public Radio News the delay in reopening the environmental lab may make it harder to accurately test some of the samples.
"The issue there is what they call holding time," Schultz said. "If you're testing for volatile organic chemicals, they're going to dissipate no matter what, and other substances may disappear over time or may not be as easily detectable."
Schultz said officials are still deciding exactly how to proceed if there is a delay in testing samples in the environmental health lab.
"It may be that we have to retest some things, it depends on what it is and how crucial it is," Schultz said. "We may be able to obtain additional samples and do the testing for the different parties that sent us the samples."
Lab officials said no samples or specimens, which are kept in secure storage units, were lost or damaged in the water leaks. But testing on those samples could be delayed, affecting the validity of test results.