More than 60 ill after landfill gas hits school


A Cortland ambulance exits the drive from Cortland Elementary School Tuesday. More than 60 people were treated for low-level carbon monoxide exposure after gas from a landfill swept over the school, 370 E. Lexington Ave.

By Lark Lewis

A quick recovery is expected for most of the those ill following a Tuesday gas exposure incident at Cortland Elementary school, 370 E. Lexington Ave.

According to a statement released by Waste Management, a third-party construction company was working at a landfill near the school Tuesday. The company was digging into garbage when the winds changed direction toward the school.

More than 60 people were treated for low-level carbon monoxide exposure, according to the Daily Chronicle.

“They’re all being treated for exposure of carbon monoxide,” said Theresa Komitas, director of marketing and public relations at Kishwaukee Hospital.

The landfill has been upgrading the gas system that controls odors, but the excavation resulted in a strong order, though not the release of methane, according to Waste Management’s statement.

Komitas said those who fell ill were treated with oxygen and were at varying levels of recovery as of Tuesday afternoon.

“Carbon monoxide will eventually work its way out of their systems with exposure to fresh air…,” Komitas said. “[Treatment] depends on the person. Some went home within a few hours; many are still in our emergency department.”

According to the statement, Waste Management sympathizes with the families affected by the odors.

In the future, the construction work will be performed only when favorable conditions exist or the school is not in session, according to the statement.

Komitas said Kishwaukee Hospital has treated cases of carbon monoxide exposure but has not dealt with a high volume of elementary school children suffering from it as the hospital did Tuesday.

Waste Management did not respond to requests for comment.