Mysterious seepage on walls at health department has some employees concerned

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Employees at a Shelby County Health Department building are concerned for their own health and safety.

The employees FOX13 spoke with, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs, said the issues have been going on for months.

Photos from inside the new health department building on Jefferson Avenue sent to FOX13 appear to show some sort of brown substance running down the walls.

A week before these employees reached out to FOX13, the health department shut down that new location for a day over what SCHD described as a “plumbing issue”. SCHD said that a toilet was clogged and needed to be sanitized before the building was reopened.

But, a spokesperson for SCHD told FOX13 that those plumbing issues and the substance on the wall are not related.

Still, employees are concerned for their own health.

“It’s brown. It looks like sewage,” one employee said. “Even the customers are seeing this as well. I’m pretty sure that they’re like, ‘What’s going on? What is this running down the wall?’ I know I would.”

According to the Shelby County Health Department, the substance on the walls is water that collected rust while running down a pipe.

“We have been informed that the rust stains on the wall are not a health or safety risk to our employees or customers,” a statement sent to FOX13 said.

But, employees aren’t convinced.

“There’s still a lot of diseases, flu going around. The last thing we want to be worried about is breathing in toxic waste,” one employee said. “The fact that we even have to look at it without being told a reason why and are not updated, it’s not a good sign to me.”

You can read the health department’s full statement here:

On Thursday, December 1, 2022, Shelby County Health Department closed 814 Jefferson Avenue in order to investigate a reported plumbing issue connected to its sewer system. The building was cleared of occupants, with some employees sent to other SCHD facilities to ensure business continuity for health services in the event water services were paused. Upon further investigation, it was determined that one toilet was clogged. After unclogging the toilet, a qualified cleaning vendor sanitized the areas, and the building was reopened to the public. At no time was the health and safety of customers, employees, or visitors at risk.

The photos you have received may be associated with water that has collected rust while running down a pipe. This issue is not related to the resolved plumbing issue that occurred on December 1st. We have been informed that the rust stains on the wall are not a health or safety risk to our employees or customers. We are moving forward with removing the rust stains from the wall.