150+ tenants evacuated from Milwaukee complex, after health department detects "toxic levels" of hazardous chemical

NOW: 150+ tenants evacuated from Milwaukee complex, after health department detects “toxic levels“ of hazardous chemical

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- More than 150 tenants were evacuated Saturday afternoon from an apartment complex on Milwaukee's northwest side, following an emergency health order issued by the city.

The Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) was notified by the Department of Natural Resources on Friday about the detection of a chemical called trichloroethylene, or TCE, inside of the Community Within the Corridor's east block apartments. 

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, TCE is "used as a solvent for cleaning metal parts."

MHD Interim Health Commissioner Tyler Weber told CBS 58 there were "high levels" of TCE found, to the point where officials said the levels became toxic.

“It’s common in industrial buildings that used to clean equipment, or it was dumped down drains and it gets in the soil, and it becomes a vapor," Weber said. 

While the MHD has not received any official health complaints, Weber said they are taking "rapid action" to support and remove tenants.

"We know this will be very difficult for them so making sure they feel safe and supported," Weber said. 

CBS 58's Ellie Nakamoto-White spoke with one tenant who moved in last December.

"I was scared because like, I don't know what to do," Matrix Martinez said, adding that he received the call while at work. "They gave us gift cards to help provide us for like a week at least."

MHD officials said pregnant women are at the highest risk, but the elevated levels of TCE can also pose problems for women ages 15 to 44. 

Currently, they are working with hotels in the areas to house all of the displaced residents.

While there is no word on when tenants can return, officials added that more information is expected to come early next week.

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