A gas leak closes Schley Elementary - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

A gas leak closes Schley Elementary

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August 7, 2002

By Mitch Kimbrell

Twenty school children had to go to a hospital today after a methane gas leak at their school. Several children at Schley County Elementary School complained of nausea after going to the restroom. Hazardous materials teams say a sewage backup caused the problem. At first, it didn't seem serious.

"When I heard what was going on and what the symptoms were, I thought some of the children had gotten overheated. And then when I found out that wasn't the case, I thought, 'Well maybe it was something for breakfast.' But, that wasn't the case either," says Schley County superintendent William Johnson.

The problem was a large concentration of methane gas cause by a sewage backup at the school.

"We went in with some haz-mat out of Americus Fire Department," says Schley County Sheriff Shane Tondee. "We called them in and they had some devices that would pick up gases. And they picked up some gases inside the school around the bathroom area."

Says Schley County Fire Chief Duane Montgomery: "It's just like any other gas. I mean it's an asphyxiant. It displaces the oxygen in the atmosphere."

After the reason for the ill students was discovered, the school was evacuated and EMS arrived to take the students by ambulance to the Sumter Regional Hospital. Parents then took more students to the hospital. All the children have been treated and released.

The building's remaining pipes will be checked with video cameras for other blockage.

Students get an unexpected holiday until Monday. Parents and teachers are thankful a potential tragedy was avoided.

Work crews say they can fix the problem. Until then, Schley County High School is also closed as a precautionary measure.