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News / Clark County News

Odor from sewer work causes teachers to fall ill at Riverview Elementary School

By Jerzy Shedlock, Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Published: October 10, 2018, 12:03pm

An odor permeating the air around Riverview Elementary School in Vancouver reportedly caused a couple of teachers to fall ill Wednesday, prompting an emergency response.

Vancouver firefighters and medics responded to the school about 11:30 a.m. after receiving reports that a smell was causing problems for some of the teachers.

Kris Fay, a spokesman with Evergreen Public Schools, said two staff members were not feeling well. He said students noticed the smell, but none reported being bothered by it.

A contractor with the city was working on a sanitary sewer line several blocks from the school, said Loretta Callahan, spokeswoman for Vancouver Public Works.

The work consisted of a liner being pushed into the sewer through a manhole. The liner is treated with steam, causing it to solidify, Callahan said. The hardened liner is a lot less disruptive than having to dig into the ground for maintenance, she said.

Similar work has been completed throughout the city, and there have been no complaints or incidents similar to what happened at the school, Callahan said. The contractor was following all safety regulations, she said.

Vancouver Fire Department hazmat responders believe that a gaseous substance created by the steam treatment wafted toward the school, department spokesman Joe Spatz said. The responders searched for other possible sources of the smell, but none were found.

According to Spatz, the battalion chief arrived at the school and noted the smell of styrene, described as heated Styrofoam. The odor dissipated, and hazmat crews monitoring the air around the school found no trace of the chemical compound.

Two teachers outside for playground duty became sick due to the smell, Spatz said. They were treated and taken to a hospital. No one inside the building fell ill, he said.

Columbian Breaking News Reporter