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Cortland Elementary School air quality plan explained

D-428 officials, Waste Management delineate procedures moving forward

Published: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 11:04 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 3:47 p.m. CDT

DeKALB – DeKalb School District 428 officials and parents are moving forward more than three months after students and staff at Cortland Elementary were sickened by an odor from the Waste Management’s nearby landfill.

During a meeting Wednesday at DeKalb High School, officials from the school district and Waste Management detailed plans for air quality monitoring, emergency preparedness, and greater communication in response to the Jan. 14 incident.

“We all wish that this hadn’t happened originally, but since it did, the best thing we could do as a school district was take the mistakes or things we weren’t doing well and improve them,” school board President Tracy Williams told the nine parents who attended.

Assistant Superintendent Doug Moeller explained that Geoff Bacci, a certified industrial hygienist with Aires Consulting, monitors and maintains hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide detectors at the school and provides monthly reports to landfill manager Mike Hey, district operations and facilities manager Tammy Carson and Cortland principal Kim Lyle. Reports and a live monitor will be posted to the school’s website,

The district also plans to conduct hazardous material drills at all schools.

District and Waste Management officials will communicate about construction schedules and weather conditions to prevent any future incidents. The company is working under a temporary order from the Illinois Attorney General’s office regarding odor control.

Waste Management also will pay about $90,000 in medical, first responder and school district bills incurred when 71 students and staff from Cortland received medical treatment after a contractor unearthed a pocket of decomposing garbage at the landfill and the odor infiltrated the school’s ventilation system.

Catherine Camancho, a Cortland parent, said although she was a little upset when the incident occurred, she never doubted the safety of her son, a third-grader.

“I’m comfortable with it and I still send my son to that school everyday,” Camancho said. “I think what happened that day was there wasn’t a plan so it was kind of chaos. They did what they could, but now teachers know what to do.”

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