Would you send your child to the Cortland school?

Rants and Raves of Mac McIntyre

Rants and Raves of Mac McIntyre

If Tracy Williams children attended Cortland Elementary School would he be content to wait 30 days to find out what caused them to get sick and transported to the hospital? I don’t really know Williams. But if I was in an affected parent’s shoes, I wouldn’t.

I’d be upset and anxious. But I’m a NIMKB (not in my kid’s body). I can’t help it.

For Cortland Elementary School parents and staff to expect in place solutions to the ongoing potential landfill gas threat is unreasonable. It’s completely understandable for District 428 to take time to give due diligence to develop a long term plan to ensure that students and staff are in a safe environment at all times.

But according to a petition drive by Clean Air for Cortland Elementary, which was started by some members of the Cortland PTA, the events that took place both Monday and Tuesday last week has sparked fear among parents that the children have been exposed to toxins for a long time. There are many accounts of children having migraines, being extremely fatigued and feeling nausea for some time now without any explanation.

To recount, a strong foul odor sent 45 students and staff members who suddenly felt sick by ambulance to Kishwaukee Community Hospital where a total of 71 people were treated for elevated carbon monoxide levels, according to published reports.

Waste Management, unnamed First Responders, the Illinois EPA and a Jerome meter installed to monitor H2S levels inside Cortland Elementary School are sourced by District 428 in determining that during the event there was no alarm from the Jerome meter and afterwards there were zero levels of methane, carbon monoxide or H2S at the school.

Those involved while inadvertent are flippant in disregarding the medical professionals who based on the results of blood tests and other analysis provided treatment for carbon monoxide. According to District 428’s panel of sources carbon monoxide did not cause the students and staff to get sick.

Waste Management manned up and admitted that they made a mistake they won’t ever repeat that resulted in Cortland Elementary School being exposed to old garbage stench released from landfill gas containment pipe construction when high winds from the south was blowing from the landfill to the school that’s 1/4 mile away.

Officials from Waste Management have stated publicly that they will reimburse the associated costs related to the incident. The IEPA has asked Attorney General Lisa Madison to seek a court order for Waste Management to do just that.

But missing from District 428’s panel is anyone from the Illinois Department of Public Health or the DeKalb County Health Department. That glaring omission doesn’t comfort the whole Cortland community, parents, teachers and students included.

So here are the “demands” of the petitioners.*** First and foremost they want to know that it is safe to return to the school. Seems reasonable. So they want it closed until safety precautions are in place:

  1. Proper testing equipment for all landfill gasses is in place inside and outside the school and such equipment is monitored on a continuous basis.
  2. All such equipment is set to provide proper warning and protection for children.
  3. Prevention, response and notification plans are approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health and the school is deemed safe by a third party.

There is nothing unreasonable about these conditions.

Some, like me, think either the landfill or the school should be closed. Another event will happen and that opinion is based on this being already the second event since the school opened. Real or imagined the threat from landfill gases scare children and adults and that will make an education at Cortland Elementary less enjoyable than children attending other District 428 elementary schools. Even if it only smells bad and any sickness is only mentally induced.

If a new school is needed to replace Cortland Elementary School then the four parties that created this mess; that being District 428, Town of Cortland, County Board and Waste Management; should work the costs out so taxpayers are NOT stuck footing the bill.

One thing the IEPA could do is hold off on that permit for Waste Management to proceed with its sevenfold expansion of that landfill at least until item #3 above is fully addressed. All construction should be halted until a detection and response plan is in place. That would put an end to any need to dig up old landfill matter to place gas containment systems.

Some parents are not sending their children back to school until an independent all clear is given. Reportedly those not being sent will be excused for the week.

According to Clean Air For Cortland Elementary, Tammy Carson, Facility Maintenance, contacted the Cortland Fire Department to conduct another air quality test and again found zero traces of any landfill gases.

The maintenance staff has since installed 16 carbon monoxide detectors around the building. The HVAC system already had carbon dioxide detectors in the gymnasium and cafeteria. The new detectors detect carbon monoxide, propane, methane, and natural gases.

The school district like the county and the Town of Cortland can’t let a vested corporation give the all clear. Medical experts must not be ignored and the Illinois Department of Public Health must step in and do their jobs.

*** If you click the link to sign the petition there are a couple of things to note. The petition effort is grassroots. iPetitions provides a free service. After you provide your name and email address and click the orange “Sign Now” button you have signed the petition. (Comments optional). The next page after clicking the button is how iPetitions makes money to offer their service. Any donation goes to them and NOT Clean Air for Cortland Elementary.

About Mac McIntyre

Mac McIntyre has more than 30 years experience in the multi-media industry working as a freelance writer, graphic designer, broadcast and television production and publisher/editor. He has been designing and maintaining websites, including this one, since 1997.
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