By Joel Hall
Clayton County officials closed the doors to the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center on Wednesday after receiving reports of foul odors throughout the building for at least a week.
While county officials listed sewage problems as the possible culprit, the center will remain closed until engineers and maintenance officials can identify and solve the problem.
An "unpleasant odor" was recently brought to the attention of county officials, said Clayton County Public Relations Officer Jamie Carlington. "As far as we know right now, it is a sewage issue, so that is why we are having our people investigate it thoroughly. We won't know exactly what it is until they complete a thorough investigation. Naturally, the safety of the people who use the facility ... we hold their safety in high regard. That's why we went ahead and closed the center."
Suzanne Brown, public information officer for the Clayton County Water Authority, said the county sought the advice of the water authority about the unpleasant odor last week. Brown said a malfunctioning pump near the senior center property may be the cause.
"They contacted us last week about some odor-control problems," Brown said. "It is a plumbing problem. It is not something that is on our system, so it isn't something we are out there working on. They have a lift station or a pump station out there at the bottom of the hill that might not be working properly. Because what is down there is not flowing properly, it will turn septic in a certain [amount of] time."
Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell said he was informed of the smells on Wednesday morning and said he has asked Clayton County's Chief of Staff Alex Cohilas and the county's maintenance department to "conduct a complete and thorough investigation."
"I was briefed about it this morning and told Cohilas to get with the maintenance and building people to pull all of the building records to see what has been causing it, because it is a new building ... practically new, and we shouldn't have anything prohibiting it. I've been told that there were fumes. Whatever it is, we intend to get it fixed, so citizens will have use of the facility."
Cohilas deferred comments about the situation to Carlington on Wednesday. Attempts to reach Les Markland, interim director of the Clayton County Building and Maintenance Department, for information, were deferred to Carlington also.
Mary Byrd, director of the Clayton County Senior Services Department, said "this is the second time" in recent weeks that the center has been closed due to the smell.
"It's nothing except a plumbing issue," Byrd said.
Carlington said the Griswell Senior Center will be closed until engineers can determine the cause of the smell. Until then, all regular activities at the center will be diverted to "various parks and recreation facilities and the two other senior facilities (the Frank Bailey Senior Center in Riverdale and the Shelnutt Inter-Generational Center in Jonesboro)," she said.
"Classes will continue on, and the other services will continue on," Carlington said. "Your memberships ... anywhere that is a parks and recreation facility, they will honor it." The county has "no idea of how long they'll be closed, until they come back with findings."