Construction materials, such as plywood boards for flooring and bags of cement for building foundations, cover the new ETU site.
Two construction workers stand on opposite sides of a nearly complete latrine at the Tappita ETU. The facility includes more than 20 structures, spread over an area equal to two football fields.
When I first stepped up to a Liberian Ebola treatment unit in early November, I had heard so much about them I felt like I knew what to expect. That was back in November when I acted as Senior Program Manager for the non-governmental organization Heart To Heart International. By midsummer, the humanitarian response had settled on the ETU as the frontline defense against the widening outbreak. Before the ETU was even completed, however, there were changes that the doctors and nurses needed that were not in the original plans. Jefferson Mok is a communications officer for International Medical Corps Ebola Response Team, currently stationed in Guinea.
The roof of the salt shed under construction as part of the new public works facility collapsed last month, injuring four workers who fell 21 feet to the ground.
Flawed bracing and faulty design caused the roof of a municipal building under construction to collapse and injure four workers, a state investigation of the accident has concluded. The final truss on a salt shed, part of the new Williston public works facility, was being installed when the roof collapsed on Aug. All of the workers were employed by the project’s contractor, Neagley & Chase Construction Co.
The investigation by the Vermont Public Safety Department reviewed photos of the roof taken before the collapse and compared them to structural guidelines published by an industry trade group and state building safety code.
Matthew Lindhiem, a building engineer for the department, concluded in his report on the investigation that the contractor failed to follow industry standards by not installing enough temporary and permanent bracing on the 7,500-square-foot structure. Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire declined to comment on the report or answer questions about the town’s oversight of the project. In a memo to the Selectboard, McGuire said the town could be drawn into a legal fight over who is responsible for the accident.

Aside from potential lawsuits, the contractor may face stiff penalties under state laws protecting worker safety. The $6 million public works complex being built on Avenue A off Industrial Avenue will largely replace the existing facilities on nearby James Brown Drive.
This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service which is copyright and cannot be reproduced. Army engineers and private construction contractors clear a large plot of jungle to build an Ebola treatment unit (ETU) in Tappita, a town in rural eastern Liberia.
There would be endless hand-washing at every building entrance and lots of decontamination with chlorine solution. The centers have successfully treated hundreds of Ebola patients and screened thousands more—helping contain the virus’s spread. There were entryways that needed to be cut out of solid walls, partitions that needed to be squeezed between patient beds, bright orange ski barriers that needed to be moved around to safely separate out contaminated areas. He also noted that a licensed engineer was not used to design the temporary bracing, as mandated by building code.
29 Selectboard meeting, a closed-door executive session was held to discuss legal issues regarding the collapse.
Vermont statute provides for fines of up to $70,000 for each willful or repeated violation and up to $7,000 for less serious violations. In addition to insurance companies, the Vermont Labor Department is also looking into the accident. There would be people lumbering about in personal protective equipment (PPE) – the Tyvek-suited icons of this crisis – and also many people not in PPE. Heart to Heart is a humanitarian organization based out of Kansas and they deliver urgent medical services and supplies to places like Haiti, the Philippines, and now, Liberia.
But they’ve also been controversial, requiring millions of dollars to build and operate, and construction delays meant that when many ETUs opened, cases were already in decline.
With those changes, a cluster of tents and shelters eventually became a functional and safe space that can both treat confirmed Ebola cases and reduce the risk of further infection. In a future post, I will round up some key questions about this approach and point out why they have caused so much tension.

The Hot Zone, his series for Popular Science, explores the (rubber) boots-on-the-ground response to the Ebola epidemic raging in West Africa. Mark Neagley, the company’s president, said after the accident that he expected all employees to make a full recovery. Stephen Monahan, the department’s director of workers’ compensation and safety, said that investigation is expected to wrap up within the next month.
But even though I knew all that, it was only seconds before I realized I had much more to learn. Hence the name—from the heartland of America to the heart of complex emergencies around the world.
That is one of the quirks of most ETUs: because the crisis is so new, the designers didn’t have the experience with Ebola that the facility operators do. My ultimate goal is to invite Popular Science readers’ input on some of these puzzles that turn up every day. They were taken to the hospital and treated for injuries, which the Williston Fire Department said varied in severity but were not life threatening.
At the entrance gate, where the hygiene monitor sprayed my boots’ soles with a 0.5% chlorine solution (sounds weak, I thought), I tried to express nonchalant surprise as pasty orange splotches blossomed on my black trousers wherever the chlorine hit.
You might not think it, but every little detail counts with public health issues, and I think everyone can contribute something to ending this Ebola crisis, even from afar. Over the next month, they raised up buildings and tents, (tried to) dig wells, installed water tanks and plumbing, and covered the ground with chunky gravel.
They trucked in materials for carpentry and electrical wiring from the capital Monrovia, a 11–12 hour journey over spine-jarring dirt roads. When those roads turned to sludge during rainy season, Chinook helicopters flew in the materials.

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