Federal lawmakers from Connecticut demanded answers Friday from the warden of the federal prison in Danbury after they say they learned first responders were denied access during one of two natural gas leaks within the past two months.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and Rep. Jahana Hayes said they sent a letter to Warden Diane Easter asking questions and calling for an “immediate assessment” of gas piping and other critical infrastructure at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, which houses more than 800 inmates, many of them women.
The Democratic lawmakers said in a statement there were gas leaks on Nov. 13 and Dec. 26. Eversource crews repaired the Nov. 13 leak, but the company’s workers and Danbury firefighters were denied access on Dec. 26 and weren’t let in until the next day, the legislators said.
Messages seeking comment were left with federal prison officials including Easter on Friday.
“Poor heating and cooling infrastructure poses a danger to both staff and inmates,” Blumenthal, Murphy and Hayes said. “One gas leak may be an isolated incident, but two different gas leaks in two different sections of piping in as many months is indicative of a larger, systemic infrastructure problem at FCI Danbury that must be investigated and remedied as soon as possible.”
They added, “Further, it is very troubling that a communications failure within FCI Danbury led the gate staff to turn away Eversource’s response team when a gas leak could pose an incredibly significant and deadly danger.”
They cited a steam system maintenance accident on Nov. 13 at the West Haven VA Medical Center that killed two workers, saying it was an example of the dangerousness of inadequately maintained infrastructure. The workers were fatally injured during a rapid release of hot water vapor while working on the steam system.
The three lawmakers also asked Easter to answer questions about COVID-19 concerns at the prison, where inmates say turnaround times for coronavirus test results are too long and there is inconsistent monitoring of inmates for possible infections.
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