Sus­pi­cious odour closes school ear­ly

L'Etoile - - IN OTHER WORDS -

For stu­dents atWest­wood Sr. High in Hud­son, it was a rea­son to get out of school ear­ly last Fri­day, but, for school of­fi­cials and fi­re­figh­ters, a sus­pi­cious smell was cause for concern.

Ac­cor­ding to the school, a "sus­pi­cious smell" was re­por­ted so­me­time du­ring per­iod 3, which runs from 10:52 to 12:07. Prin­ci­pal Ala­na Le­roux said a call was pla­ced to the Hud­sonFi­reDe­part­ment, while stu­dents­were as­ked to get their coats and leave the buil­ding with tea­chers on the bit­ter­ly cold day.

It was not un­til a team of four Hud­son fi­re­figh­ters lo­ca­ted the smell in an area of the school that stu­dents were per­mit­ted to go in­to a new gym lo­ca­ted away from the source of the odour.

Antoine Hétu, a Hud­son lieu­te­nant and fire pre­ven­tion of­fi­cer, said his crew used a gas de­tec­tor ca­pable of iden­ti­fying four types of gases to ve­ri­fy that all was safe.

"The gas de­tec­tor in­di­ca­ted there was no dan­ger but there was a smell and it was real­ly sus­pi­cious," he said.

As a pre­cau­tio­na­ry mea­sure, the school de­ci­ded to end classes ear­ly and to send stu­dents home.

Tho­sew­ho walk to school were dis­mis­sed first, while others, whose pa­rents could not get them ear­ly, wai­ted for busses to ar­rive.

Board in­ves­ti­gates

Hétu said though fi­re­figh­ters de­ter­mi­ned that the smell was co­ming from a bar­rel pla­ced in one of the school's crawl spaces, they could not iden­ti­fy the odour.

"It was not the smell of pro­pane or se­wage, but it was so­me­thing."

Before entering the confi­ned area, fi­re­figh­ters ve­ri­fied that gas le­vels were safe with the gas de­tec­tor.

"We were concer­ned about a pos­sible hy­dro­gen-sul­phur leak," Hétu no­ted.

Such gas leaks, crea­ted by the or­ga­nic de­com­po­si­tion of fe­cal mat­ter, can be found in sep­tic tanks and ma­nure pits of­ten used on farms.

Hétu said le­vels of more than100 parts per mil­lion can cause a per­son to fall un­cons­cious and can even lead to death.

"It smells a lit­tle like rot­ten eggs and can be real­ly dan­ge­rous."

Ac­cor­ding to Hétu, the school did exact­ly the right thing cal­ling in the sus­pi­cious smell.

"You don't ever want to take a chance with a strange odour. People should al­ways re­port it to 911 and let us check it out."

The Les­ter B. Pear­son School Board sent wor­kers to the school Fri­day to clean up the source of the odour, which was de­ter­mi­ned to have come from an aged sep­tic tank long out of use.

The school, which used to re­ly on sep­tic tanks, hoo­ked in­to the town's new­ly ins­tal­led se­wage sys­tem last fall.

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