Environmental officials to issue report on Cortland landfill incident

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 1:19 p.m.CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 1:48 p.m.CDT

CORTLAND — State environmental officials are expected to release a report this afternoon about the foul odor that sent more then 60 people from Cortland Elementary School to the hospital Tuesday.

This morning, a field inspector with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency visited the Waste Management facility in Cortland where the odor originated, as well as Cortland Elementary School.

The odor became trapped in school vents Tuesday and caused several students and staff members to experience low levels of carbon monoxide exposure.

Donna Shehane, a field inspector from the agency's regional office in Rockford, is expected to file a report later this afternoon that could include information about the incident and any potential sanctions the agency could enforce, agency spokeswoman Kim Biggs said.

Shehane's report will include written summaries of the events from Waste Management and DeKalb School District 428, as well as information on what substance could have caused students' and staff members' nausea, vomitting and headaches.

"During the site visit our field inspector takes a sample to determine what gases were emitted with the smell," Biggs said.

Waste Management officials said Tuesday the smell was released when contractors working at the site hit a pocket of older decomposing garbage. The wind then carried the smell to the school.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's department of community relations is working on a press release that will provide parents and community members with more information on the incident.

In the meantime, school is back in session.

"Everything is back to normal," said Kimberly Lyle, Cortland Elementary principal.

While 63 people were treated at Kishwaukee Hospital for low-level carbon monoxide exposure Tuesday, readings taken by the emergency personnel at the school never registered any readings for air contaminants, fire officials said. The school's hydrogen sulfide monitor also never indicated harmful gas was present.

Absences today are slightly higher than normal, but those could also be attributed to a spreading flu, Lyle said.

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