Rep. Joe Cunningham and Sen. Kamala Harris file bill to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in public housing

Two men died from it in a Columbia public housing complex in January

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Harris (left) and Cunningham are introducing legislation to mandate carbon monoxide detectors in public housing - U.S. CONGRESS
  • U.S. Congress
  • Harris (left) and Cunningham are introducing legislation to mandate carbon monoxide detectors in public housing
Charleston Congressman Joe Cunningham and Sen. Kamala Harris introduced legislation to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, which killed two men at a public housing complex in Columbia earlier this year.

The bill, titled the Safe Housing for Families Act, was introduced on Tuesday, according to a press release from Cunningham's office.

It would require that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development install carbon monoxide detectors in public housing units.



Carbon monoxide poisoning has killed 11 people in HUD housing since 2003, according to NBC News.

In January, after two residents of Allen Benedict Court, a public housing complex in Columbia, were found dead, first responders discovered unusually high levels of natural gas. Calvin Witherspoon Jr., 61, and Derrick Caldwell Roper, 30, were found dead in one of the buildings. The coroner later determined they died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The entire complex has since been evacuated. Last month, the Columbia Housing Authority officially lost out on a $30 million HUD grant that would have helped pay for its demolition and reconstruction, according to The State.

"While certainly disappointing, this news should only serve as inspiration to redouble our regional efforts to create more affordable housing across the Midlands," Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin told the newspaper. "Our answers will lie in local creativity and collaboration (and) not in Washington D.C."

Harris, a senator from California who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, made her third trip to South Carolina over the weekend, stopping at a North Charleston economic empowerment event on Saturday.

"Every parent deserves the peace of mind of knowing their children are safe when they tuck them in at night," Cunningham said in a statement. "The two senseless deaths at Benedict Allen Court apartments in Columbia, S.C. could have been prevented and we have an urgent obligation to make sure such tragedies never happen again."

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