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The Durango Herald recently reported a methane gas leak at the Ignacio Junior High School in Colorado caused a number of students to be sent to the hospital.
The leak, which would have been easily detectable using a methane gas detector, was caused by a backed up sewage system that many of the school's teachers cited as problematic. A plumber has since unclogged the blockage and the school has returned to its normal operations. Fumes entered the classroom through floor and sink drains.
The methane caused a number of adverse effects to 30 students, including nausea, vomiting and headaches. The clogged sewer line funneled noxious fumes into an eighth grade science classroom. Twenty of the students were sent to Animas Surgical Hospital and Mercy Regional Medical Center where they were evaluated and cleared for release.
School in need of renovations to fix ongoing leaks
According to Rocco Fuschetto, Ignacio School District superintendent, the fumes were originally suspected to be billowing up from a sediment collection tank. The area of the school affected by the fumes is slotted for a $50 million renovation, but school officials are uncertain if those rennovations will include any revamp of the plumbing or involve the installation methane or other toxic gas detectors to alert administrators and teachers of future leaks.
Tom Aurnhammer, deputy chief of Los Pinos Fire Protection District, assured The Durango Herald that tests showed gas levels did not pose a fire risk, as they were too low to be flamable.
Still, Joseph Duffy, the teacher in the room, admitted the room had a reputation for ventilation issues. He noted the smell was a bit worse than a typical day so he opened the windows to the classroom. It was only later on, after his students left that they began to experience nausea.
Teachers at Ignacio Junior High School claim that the fumes are the cause of numerous health issues that they experience during the school year, and that symptoms like coughing, headaches, difficult recalling details and eye irritation disappear during the summer break.
Greg Brand, environmental health director of the San Juan Basin Health Department, has asked school officials for information concerning its future plans to address this issue. Brand notes that the health department has no intention to visit the school in the future in connection with the gas leak, according The Durango Herald.
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