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School Reopens, But Smell Lingers

Oct. 13, 2004 — Students of the Joseph Gomez Elementary School were allowed back to their classrooms Tuesday after being sent home early Friday morning due to a spill from a sewer line. But parents were still concerned about the sewage problem, which has been ongoing.
The Department of Public Works worked over the long weekend to resolve the sewage problems that had been plaguing the school, Juel Anderson, public affairs officer of the Department of Education, said Tuesday.
Anderson said William Frett, superintendent of schools, did an on-site check of the school Monday before approving its reopening on Tuesday.
However, the mother of a fourth-grade student at the school said the strong stench of sewage still remained.
The unsatisfied parent, who wishes to remain unnamed, said she received a call at work Tuesday asking her to pick up her son who had been vomiting all morning.
When she arrived, she said, she was hit by the stench of the sewage fumes.
"The whole school smells horrible," the woman said, adding that her child's nausea and vomiting could be related to the stench. "I'm not sending him back to school until it's fixed."
The woman said if the problem was not fixed by Thursday she will transfer her son to a new school.
Anderson said as far as she knew the stench was no longer a serious problem or Frett would not have called for the school's reopening.
"Based on my information, depending on how the wind blows you may have a scent," Anderson said, adding that it was nothing so pervasive as to keep the school from reopening.
Mildred Carty, mother of a fifth-grade student at Gomez, said although her daughter, who has asthma did not complain of a stench after school Tuesday, she did say she felt sick.
Carty said the sewage problems have been "ongoing" because of a manhole near the school.
"The sewage problem will always be there because of the manhole," Carty said. "They should try and fix the problem."
Carty said on Friday she had to keep her daughter at work with her since the school was shut down.
Calls to Wayne Callwood, Department of Public Works commissioner, were not returned Wednesday. Also, Gomez School Principal Frida Farrow was not reached for comment.
According to the Health Department's Environmental Health Division, raw sewage poses a serious threat to human beings, including gastrointestinal disorders and other disorders of the immune system.
The Gomez students, as well as other students in the territory, have missed several days of school this semester due to Tropical Storm Jeanne and other storms.
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