A mysterious rotten-egg odor once again prompted the evacuation of Memorial Middle School on Monday, the second time in six days that the Las Vegas City Schools District has resorted to the extraordinary measure.
Several students complained on Monday that the odor was giving them headaches and stomach aches, and one staff member even went home sick. Some even called their parents to pick them up; however, only one student met with the school nurse, according to Superintendent Sheryl McNellis-Martinez.
The school was evacuated, but students and staff returned to their classrooms after school district officials said no gas leaks were found. McNellis-Martinez said students and staff were outside the school for roughly half an hour as an inspection was done.
Last Wednesday students and staff were ordered out of the building due to what was believed to be natural gas leaks. They were sent home between 12:30 and 1 p.m., and classes at the school were cancelled on Thursday so that the issue could be dealt with.
In a letter dated last Wednesday and posted on the school district’s website, McNellis-Martinez wrote, “No gas leaks were found within the school or on the grounds surrounding the building.” During a telephone interview on Tuesday; however, she acknowledged that a small gas leak was found last week on the roof of one of the buildings.
She didn’t clarify why she stated in her letter that no gas leaks were found.
The letter, which was removed from the district’s website on Monday, stated that the school was evacuated last week as a safety precaution.
Hays Plumbing was called in to perform a pressure test on the gas lines last Wednesday afternoon. McNellis-Martinez stated in her letter that the test required at least 24-hours to perform and would determine if there were any concern over gas leaks.
City Utilities Director Ken Garcia, who oversees the city’s gas department, said Monday that gas was shut off at the school last Wednesday after leaks were found in gas lines on the roof of the school. City Fire Chief Phillip Mares echoed Garcia’s comments during a telephone interview on Tuesday morning.
Rick Dale of Hays Plumbing said that when the company got to the school, the city had already turned off the building’s gas. The company did inspect the lines and came across a handful of small gas leaks. But Dale said the leaks could have been created during the inspection and pressure test.
Hays Plumbing increased the gas line pressure from ounces to five pounds, and the test detected minimal leaks. The company completed all the work, and everything passed inspection by the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department on Friday.
On Monday, Hays Plumbing was called out again to Memorial Middle School, located off Old National Road.
The city gas and fire department were also sent back to the school on Monday.
The fire department responded based on an anonymous call to its office. Neither the city, nor the fire department nor Hays Plumbing found any gas leak during Monday’s inspection.
Dale said he is, however, concerned about a furnace located on the roof of the building that he said isn’t operating correctly. He speculates that the furnace could be producing an odor, but he doesn’t think that odor would be going inside the building.
McNellis-Martinez said engineers were called in from Albuquerque to figure out what the problem is.
“If there is something there, it is not at the level where it is a safety risk,” McNellis-Martinez said. “We are just going to do everything we can to try to find it.”
The superintendent said the heating unit was turned off and on several times Monday afternoon, the same day that Las Vegas’ high temperature reached only about 45 degrees.
Heat in some areas of the school was off Tuesday morning, but McNellis-Martinez said rooms were still warm and comfortable.
McNellis-Martinez said last week’s inspection found that a seal on a lift station for sewer was compromised, but she said that has since been fixed. She said the seal was compromised during the city’s recent installation of the effluent line.
Additionally, during Monday’s inspection two exhaust fans on the roof were found to be inoperable and have since been replaced. McNellis-Martinez said the district is also scheduling an air quality test within the building in the very near future.
McNellis-Martinez said Memorial Middle School students will need to make up the time for Thursday, but she said she is unsure if they will need to make up the half day missed on Wednesday.