Suspicious odour closes school early
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.
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.