36 elementary school students evaluated after becoming nauseated by construction fumes

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Students at Zamorano Arts Academy are expected to return to classes as usual after dozens of students reported feeling sick on Thursday.

Thirty-six students complained of feeling ill because of a nauseating smell coming from sewer repairs on Casey Street, which is adjacent to the Bay Terraces campus.

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department responded to the school just before 10:30 a.m. Monique Mathews, who lives in the neighborhood, heard the sirens and was one of the first parents to arrive at the school.

"They basically calmed my nerves and told me that it was only one side of the campus and they were calling all the parents that it did affect," Matthews said.

Some parents who rushed to the school because of phone calls from others claimed that they received no alerts or information from the school district. 

Of the 36 children who complained of feeling sick, one was taken to the hospital for further evaluation. Some of the children were on the playground for recess when they encountered the noxious smell.

They complained of various symptoms, including dizziness, nausea, and coughing. Linda Arinduque, who was waiting for her son to be released from school, said she could detect the sickening smell in the air earlier in the day.

Arinduque said she actually confronted the foreman of the crew that was working on the sewer repairs and asked him why he wasn’t doing anything about the odor.

"I said ‘my son is six years old and he’s on his playground right now at recess,’” Arinduque said. "I said, ‘and this is gonna make him sick, and then he’s like ‘I’m going to cover it up, I’m going to cover it up,’ and I asked him did you talk to the school about this?"

The children who said they were sick were allowed to leave first. Other students who were not directly affected were also given permission to leave classes early. After checking for hazardous materials at the work site and on the Zamorano school campus, Battalion Chief Dan Eddy said nothing was detected.

"A HAZMAT crew worked with the crews that were there, used their equipment that they had on scene and found actually nothing in any of their readings whatsoever, that was a hazardous condition at all,"  Eddy said. "So, the biggest report was just a smell."

Construction work on the sewer pipe has been halted indefinitely. Representatives from the school and the San Diego Unified School District will meet with the City to discuss when work in the area can safely resume.

Categories: Local San Diego News