Chemical spray spurs middle school evacuation; students taken to hospital

Forty-seven kids were affected — 21 were treated, some taken to area hospitals or most were released to parents, said Jeff Galloway, director of Butler County Emergency Management.

Five students were taken to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Liberty Twp. and one was transported to the Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, Galloway said Tuesday night. 

The children were transported from the Busenbark Road school for further treatment at the requests of parents; they were not showing any additional symptoms, Galloway said.

“We moved all the kids out of here and then evacuated this school and then we had 26 more symptoms over at the high school, but they’re middle school kids that were moved there as an evacuation,” he said.

Hazardous material teams and numerous emergency crews responded to the scene after dozens of students complained of headaches and feeling dizzy, officials said.

The school has used the same pest control company before without problems, but heavy, humid air and a breeze pushed the odor toward the open windows at school,  Galloway said.

Galloway said several different high-tech meters were brought in, but they turned up no readings.

“About an hour an a half to two hours into the incident, we discovered that a pest control company came this morning and sprayed the fields — the baseball field and field around the football stadium — out here with some kind of a pest control while the windows were open,” he said.

“What we’re thinking is that chemical and the smell of it went into the classrooms,” he said. “The chemical they’re dealing with is an irritant by inhalation. The symptoms they were exposed to were difficulty breathing, nausea, headaches and dizziness.”

Galloway said blades of grass from the baseball field were tested, confirming they had been sprayed with the chemical Momentum — which kills weeds and cloves, but not grass. The chemical is described as slightly toxic with corneal involvement or irritation and moderate skin irritation, according to gardenguides.com.

“We did more of a precaution today by bringing all the hazardous material teams out here and checking. There was a situation here, but I don’t believe it was a life threatening situation, just more of a precautionary situation.”

Butler County Sheriff’s Capt. Richard Greer said extra deputies were called to the school, which houses about 1,100 students in grades 5-8, to help control traffic in front of the school — crowded with emergency vehicles — as a result of concerned parents showing up at the school to check on their kids.

He said he was told some parents showed up at the school “teary” eyed and others “calm.”

The odor was first detected by a student in the fifth- and sixth-grade wing of Edgewood Middle School, in a classroom were a few other students also complained of headaches or coughing. Some began coughing around 10:30 a.m., said John Thomas, a spokesman for the district.

“We’ve taken the necessary precautions that we should, we went ahead and evacuated the room,” he said around 11 a.m.

Galloway said initial reports indicated that 11 children were reported sick at the school and two St. Clair Twp. life squads — a volunteer department — were sent to evaluate the situation.

Thomas said the school also notified the parents of those in that classroom by phone and the remainder of the parents were notified by the district’s parent notification system and by its website. He said “chillers” for air conditioning units were turned off.

The odor eventually forced the evacuation of the entire school on Busenbark Road outside of Trenton and children were escorted to the auditorium at the district high school.

Monte Mayer of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office said some students were taken off campus by their parents and guardians.

The school began moving students from a fifth- and sixth-grade wing before 11 a.m. after some complained of headaches. A full evacuation was complete just after noon.

Shortly after 1:30 p.m. students began filing back into the school once school officials were told that the building was clear.

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