Carbon Monoxide Levels Tested By NIOSH on Houseboats at Lake Mead

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During August 2000 at Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border, two brothers drowned as a result of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by swimming near the stern of a privately owned houseboat while the onboard gasoline-powered generator was operating. The deaths triggered a national investigation of the problem by NIOSH. NIOSH tests of a new generator provide evidence carbon monxoide risk from exhaust is virtually eliminated.

Under the watchful eye of the United States Coast Guard, industry representatives, regulators and researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) convened last week at Forever Resorts Callville Bay Marina on Lake Mead. They assembled to evaluate the performance of a new Westerbeke Corporation’s Safe-CO™ generators to reduce deadly carbon monoxide (CO) gas aboard houseboats.

Earlier this year, Forever Resorts fitted two rental houseboats from their luxury fleet with the Safe-CO™ generators to test their effectiveness. Westerbeke’s Safe-CO™ generators were used to generate electricity on the Forever Houseboats under real-life conditions with one real goal – to prevent boat-related carbon monoxide poisonings. While NIOSH’s final written report has not yet been released, Forever Resorts finds the preliminary on-water measurements very reassuring with regard to enhanced safety.

Dick Blackman, an engineer in the Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety said, “The Coast Guard is very pleased with the contributions industry organizations such as Forever Resorts and Fun Country Houseboats have made toward the eventual elimination of carbon monoxide poisoning as a risk in recreational boats. Forever Resorts commitment has been instrumental since 2001 in providing assets to help the Coast Guard and NIOSH as well as other government and standards organizations define the problem, and to design and test control technologies.”

Scott Earnest, Acting Branch Chief of NIOSH commented, "I have had the pleasure of working with Forever Resorts on boat-related carbon monoxide issues over the past several years, and it has been a real joy. Forever Resorts is an industry leader that has taken proactive measures to protect boaters from CO hazards. Westerbeke's development of a "Safe CO" generator is a significant technological development for the boating industry, and they are to be commended."

Along with others in the houseboating industry, Westerbeke identified the seriousness of the CO danger several years ago and has spent 2 ½ years developing new technologies in gasoline-fueled generators that could effectively reduce CO danger afloat. Tom Sutherland of Westerbeke stated, “We are very pleased to have NIOSH perform precise CO measurements and to verify not only the performance of our generators but also to show that houseboating can now be made much safer. And I’d like to extend special thanks to Forever Resorts for helping us make this testing possible”.

This is not the first time CO levels on houseboats have been tested. More than 570 boat-related CO poisonings from generator or propulsion engine exhaust were identified from the mid-1980s to present, and CO concentrations on boats of all kinds were measured by NIOSH.

In an effort to evaluate controls designed to prevent CO poisonings and promote safety aboard their rental fleet, Forever Resorts approached Westerbeke. Forever Resorts had participated in numerous prior tests of proposed CO control methods developed. And before the start of the 2003 boating season, Forever Resorts had installed the most effective controls available on every houseboat in their fleet.

“We are encouraged by the findings during the testing of the new Safe-CO™ generator on our houseboats,” stated John Stenseth, general manager of Fun Country Marine and builder of the Forever Houseboats. “Providing a safe environment for the boating public aboard our boats is our primary goal.”

Until Westerbeke created Safe-CO™, marine generator exhaust contained very high concentrations of CO. Earlier NIOSH investigations showed when a generator is in operation, CO concentrations under and near a boat’s rear deck can be 25 times greater than 1200 ppm (parts per million), the level considered to be immediately dangerous to life and health.

NIOSH intends to test these houseboats with Safe-CO™ generators again, after a full season of rental use, to verify that the generators maintain their low-emission performance. Westerbeke technology indicates recreational boating can be made safer. Both Westerbeke and Forever Resorts have taken the position the boating public should insist on the lowest obtainable CO emissions limits.

Families like the Dixeys agree. After the death of their boys, Ken and Bambi Dixie turned to each other and their community for strength to overcome their grief. Bambi Dixey responded to news of the developments at Lake Mead saying, “If the final results of the NIOSH testing are as good as the early results look, this product will save lives. What great news for our CO Awareness Committee to share with other boating families. The Double Angel Foundation is sincerely devoted to this entire issue and we will fight to the end to help save lives.”

About Forever Resorts

The Forever Resorts family of companies has been based in Arizona since its inception in 1981 and owns and operates properties in national parks, recreation areas and national forests, and choice destinations of North America, Hungary and South Africa. The firm is a leading hospitality provider with significant experience in lodging, marinas and related services, food service and retail operations and is a respected industry leader in houseboat manufacturing and luxury houseboat vacation rentals. “Soaring to be the Best” each Forever Resorts’ location is ISO 14001 certified and is committed to protecting human health and the environment, and many properties have received other awards and third-party certification for its environmental practices. For more information visit the company website at http://www.ForeverResorts.com

About Westerbeke Safe-CO™

Westerbeke Corporation is over 70 years old and is a leading manufacturer of gasoline and diesel-fueled marine engines and generators. They are a major supplier to the houseboat industry, including the largest manufacturers and rental facilities. Safe-CO™ generators, the result of a multi-year development program, uses a combination of innovative engineering (patents pending) and electronic fuel injection (EFI) to achieve safety-enhancing and environmentally friendly ultra-low CO emissions. The company offers a range of Safe-CO™ models from 5 kW of electrical power up to 22.5 kW, enough to power the largest of today’s houseboats. Westerbeke is a privately owned company, based in Taunton, Massachusetts. Additional information is available at http://www.safeCOproducts.com or http://www.westerbeke.com

About Double Angel Foundation

The purpose of the foundation is to save lives. As ambassadors of the Foundation, Ken and Bambi Dixey began a crusade to raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning on houseboats. The foundation has made a direct impact on this problem and encouraged many positive changes by addressing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning involving many organizations including the Coast Guard, the National Park Service, and the houseboat manufacturers. Several boat manufacturers have completely retrofitted new boats to make them much safer for consumers. The foundation has provided educational tapes to the head coroners in each state in the U.S. encouraging them to test all drowning victims near boats for carbon monoxide poisoning. By properly identifying these incidents as drowning due to CO poisoning as opposed to mere drowning, this may force safety changes and provide further awareness. For more information 303-841-2420 or: http://www.doubleangel.org

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Darla Cook
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