Truck Exhaust Causes Carbon Monoxide Scare at the Gorman Fort Banks School

By Joseph Domelowicz

For the Transcript

The William Gorman Fort Banks Elementary School was the scene of commotion and concern last Friday morning, when high carbon monoxide readings were confirmed at the school just prior to the start of the school day.

According to Winthrop Schools Superintendent Dr. Joseph Lisi, the situation began prior to the start of school on Friday morning, when teachers arriving to open the school and start their day noticed a strong odor of gas in the air.

“Initially, we were concerned that it was a natural gas leak, so the Winthrop Fire Department and N-Star (gas company) were called to the scene,” explained Lisi. “The fire department was able to confirm traces of carbon monoxide readings in three areas of the school including the cafeteria and the entrance area.”

In the interest of safety, children who had not yet entered the school, were kept outside of the school and children who had entered were taken outside by their teachers and school administrators.

“The traces of carbon monoxide were attributed to a truck that was at the school to remove a dumpster,” said Lisi. “The truck had been there idling, and then powered up to lift the dumpster, at the same time the school’s HVAC system switched on and started pulling air into the school.”

Because of the proximity of the idling truck to the intake vents on the outside of the school, the vents pulled exhaust from the truck into the school’s HVAC system and dispersed it throughout the building, causing the odor and the CO readings.”

Lisi said the event has presented an issue that the school department needed to deal with and confirmed that steps have already been taken to ensure that this type of event does not take place again.

“We’ve already spoken to (the dumpster hauling company) and have instructed them that they have to arrange to pick up their dumpsters much earlier, to avoid the start-up of the HVAC system and the opening of the school,” said Lisi. “They have agreed to comply with those instructions going forward.”

Lisi also said that activities at the Public Works building across the street from the school are not a concern, because the trucks moving in and out of that site are much further away than the dumpster truck that caused the problems on Friday.

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