It will be at least another week, before the D.C. Municipal Center returns to near normal operations and the cost of cleaning the building following last Thursday's tear gas explosion will be somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000, according to Samuel D. Starobin, the city's general services director.
During the massive cleanup employees in the building will continue to work four hour shifts to reduce their exposure to the transfer; many particles older employees will remain on administrative leave; the Indiana Avenue entrance will remain closed.
In addition to the manpower loss, the city will lose roughly $300,000 in equipment as a result of the tear gas explosion in an ammunition storage room on the building's second floor.
Starobin said yesterday he hoped the building would be "almost totally functional" by the end of next week but could not say when it would be "100 per cent back to normal." Complicating the cleanup he said, is the fact that gas isstill seeping from the ammunition room.
It was not until Wednesday that Mayor Walter Washington appointed a 10-man task force to inspect the building and deliver a report on exactly what needs to be done to clean all the tear gas.
"It took us a while to get down to hard pragmatic solutions," Starobin said.
He acknowledged that the reason it took so long to get down to those solutions is that he did not realize until Tuesday how serious the problem was and he had the final responsibility for handling the cleanup.
From Friday until Tuesday, those who did know how difficult it might be to get the tear gas - most notably the police - did not bother to tell him that the technique he was using -ventilating the building would be ineffective.
"I don't think we realized exactly what we were dealing with," Starobin said yesterday. "When I went into the building Friday I just wanted to check and see that the building services were functioning.
'I'm not one for wishing or looking back but I guess it would've been smart for me to beat on some people or the police and say, 'hey, fellas what have we got here.'"
After inspecting the building Friday, Starobin ordered that it be ventilated and did not return until Monday. "We had a three-day weekend and I guess we though that would give us a cushion," he said. "If we hadn't had the weekend we probably would have been forced to cope with the problem more immediately."
it was not until Monday that Starobin ordered maintenance crews into the building. 'I had a memo advising me that a scrub down would be necessary on Friday," he said. "But I wanted to get the building ventilated and I hope the ventilation would get most of the gas out.
Monday evening Starobin ordered the building open for full operation on Tuesday morning. In the meantime, Deputy Police Chief Charles M. troublefield, who was acting police chief on the holiday, ordered that police officers normally stationed in the Municipal Center report to their temporary duty stations outside the building.
Although Troublefield would not comment on the reasons for the order yesterday, a spokesman said, "He was told the building would be ready Tuesday morning but he didn't believe it."
Troublefield proved to be correct. Starobin said when he walked through the building at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday it appeared that, "The majority of the building would be trouble free."
What he did not bargain for was the fact that tear gas, which is actually a powder, returns to that form after exploding and when it is stirred around by people it spreads out. As people entered the building the problem grew worse. "The trouble areas kept moving," Starobin said.
"It was then that I realized I needed to get some good, hard advice about what we were dealing with," he added.
It was also at that point that the mayor ordered a man task force of environmental and medical specialists to inspect the building and find out what needed to be done. The task force made its inspection Wednesday.
Yesterday the task force recommended an immediate, complete cleanup of the ammunition storage room, another complete scrubdown of the building, including desks and files, and that hundreds of pounds of chemical disposal equipment be purchased to throughly clean up the building.
Sam Eastman, spokesman for Mayor Washington, said yesterday that he hoped "This is a once in a lifetime situation." But he added that, "The situtation was Mr. Starobin's responsibility. In hindsight, whether he should have sought out advice is a question he has to answer. He did tell me that the police offered him no advice."
Attempts to reach police officials for comment were unsuccessful.