Tacoma detention center gets federal warning after chemicals impact detainee health
Since the start of the pandemic, immigrants and staff at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma have been trying to limit the spread of Covid-19 with meticulous cleaning. But those industrial cleaning products have led to complaints of headaches and sore throats among detainees.
Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has stepped in.
Detainees at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma have been sounding the alarm about the use of certain cleaning agents inside the facility that they say are making some people sick.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigated and recently issued a warning letter to The GEO Group, the private prison company that operates the detention center.
The EPA found detainees were not given adequate access to clean clothing after using two kinds of industrial disinfectant: GS Neutral Disinfectant Cleaner and Sani-10 T Plus.
The cleaning agents are considered “pesticides” and subject to federal regulations.
Surfaces in a housing unit could be disinfected 48 times in one day alone. Detainees were then stuck wearing contaminated clothing. Some complained of sore throats and headaches.
In March, the EPA issued a similar warning to the private-prison company about chemicals used at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in California where immigrants were experiencing nosebleeds, headaches, and nausea.
An ICE spokesperson punted KUOW’s questions to The GEO Group. In an email, a Geo Group spokesperson said they intend to address the letter through the EPA’s formal process.
Further violations may lead to a stop order or even civil penalties.