Petersburg authorities unable to determine source of stinky smell at school

Published: Nov. 6, 2019 at 11:23 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A strong odor has parents and even teachers complaining at a Petersburg school. It was so bad, students went home early Wednesday for the second time in two weeks.

It’s happening at the Westview Early Childhood Center for preschoolers where firefighters are roaming the halls of a school to find the root of a problem.

“Just a bad odor of something,” Fire Marshal Jim Reid said.

Some have compared it to sewage. Others say they’ve smelled an odor similar to rotten eggs. Either way, it prompted early dismissal again Wednesday.

Students were sent home early last week when even teachers complained of the bad smell.

"The school administration also brought in a few third party companies to come in and do some air quality testing,” City Spokesperson Folakemi Osoba said.

The school was deemed safe, so classes resumed at Westview for three full days. But on the fourth day, a parent complained of a horrendous smell.

The fire department brought in equipment looking for gas, but they didn’t find anything. So they took another step.

"On the safe side, we called for Ft. Lee Fire and Rescue. They’re part of the regional HAZMAT response team. They have readers with broader capabilities than what we possess on our fire apparatus,” Reid added.

Again, no gases detected.

"We went through every room within the school and any concealed space,” Reid said.

In a letter to parents Wednesday, school leaders said the smell seemed to be more prevalent when school officials turned on the heating system.

That's why firefighters even checked out the ceiling.

"To make sure all the vent pipes for the sewers and everything was intact, that nothing was getting in the HVAC system and cycling through the building,” Captain Braden Peter said.

Read the full letter to parents here:

A letter was sent to parents Wednesday to address the odor.
A letter was sent to parents Wednesday to address the odor.(NBC12)

So whatever the issue, everyone is hoping for a resolution to get rid of the stink.

"It is disruptive to the learning day,” Osoba added.

Westview will operate on a normal schedule Thursday but firefighters will be on hand before the school day to continue evaluating the situation.

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