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20 Years Later, Woman Describes Effects of Carbon Monoxide

DUNMORE -- 20 years ago, families in Lackawanna County discovered that their homes were filled with carbon monoxide.

One of those families says they still live with the effects two decades later.

The carbon monoxide leak that was discovered February 7, 1997  affected homes in the Swinick development in Dunmore.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency later blamed PennDOT for causing the CO release.

One of the women affected said on this 20th anniversary, she wanted people to know that this still affects her and her family.

"20 years, it feels like 20 seconds. It feels like it was just yesterday. It changed the direction of a lot of people's lives."

From her home in Scranton, Lori Zepponi takes stock of the past 20 years.

That's when Newswatch 16 first met her in Dunmore where she lived in a house that she built for her three children. We met her hours after she says she feared her children were dead.

"February 7, 7:43 in the morning. That's it. You think about the exact time, the exact moment that your life was changed forever," said Zepponi.

Lori and her two children who were home at the time were poisoned by carbon monoxide gas. Her son was hospitalized. She says all three of them could have died if it weren't for a well-timed call from a coworker.

"She called me for a ride to work that morning, and we would have never woken up that day if she hadn't called repeatedly and said, 'Hey, where are you?'''

Lori says the poisoning has had long lasting effects on her. She suffered a brain injury that to this day affects her speech.

Back then, she was forced to abandon a career in New York City and the house she loved so much. She lives in Scranton now and told us she did receive a civil settlement though she can't tell us the details of that agreement.

She's since become a vocal advocate for carbon monoxide detectors in homes and wanted to talk to us again 20 years later to let those who've wondered know that she and her family are doing OK.

"20 years later, I'm 20 years older, and 20 years wiser, and I know that life goes on so don't ever shut your doors to life going on again," she advised.

Lori says she still talks to many of her neighbors in Dunmore, even though she never returned to her home after February 7, 1997.

She told us that there were more than a dozen defendants in the civil suit she eventually won. She says she does not know who was ultimately held financially responsible.

3 comments

  • shananarocks

    One often overlooked danger is heavy snowfall could be blocking the vents at houses, leading to the danger carbon monoxide poisoning. Maybe can correlate data from the Valentines Day Blizzard, February 2007, which was also one of US heaviest snow storm in history in the eastern half of North America, including your area to carbon monoxide poisoning cases.

  • John S Mellow

    The data and evaluations showed clearly that the original carbon monoxide incident was from the PennDOT contrator blasting rock for the highway. There is still an unknown potential from carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds from the subsurface at this point in time.

  • Lloyd Schmucatelli

    Sounds like quite the attention seeker pushing a personal agenda to SUE, SUE, SUE!

    20 years? Come on.

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