New Jersey

Students Return to NJ High School Day After Sickening Odor

Authorities deemed Paulsboro High School safe Thursday morning and classes resumed at the New Jersey school a day after an odor causes some students and staff to fall ill.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection tested the air quality in the school buildings early Thursday morning and determined the facilities were safe for use.

A day earlier, more than a dozen students and some faculty members were taken to Inspira Woodbury Hospital after complaining of a strange odor. Several of the sick students said they were experiencing headaches and one girl passed out, according to parents.

"She told me that her nose is burning. She has headaches," said Tara Fortson, a parent of a Paulsboro High School student. "She told me that she's just like dizzy. She doesn't feel well."

Shortly after the kids and staff reported feeling sick, officials dismissed school for the day.

The school is less than a mile from the Paulsboro refinery, which the school reports is the source of the odor.

On Monday, a leak in a large storage tank a couple hundred yards from the school was detected and the leak began emitting fumes, said Mark Wilgus, a spokesman for PBF Energy Paulsboro Refinery.

The refinery began transferring the partially refined oil from the tank Monday, but strong gusts made the odor very detectable for areas downwind -- which included the school, according to Wilgus.

The refinery processes a variety of medium and to heavy sour crude oils, according to the company website, which also says PBF is "one of the largest independent refiners and suppliers of unbranded transportation fuels, heating oil, petrochemical feedstocks, lubricants and other petroleum products in the United States."

Crude oil contains a series of chemicals including Benzene and Hydrogen sulfide, which if inhaled, even at low levels, can cause irritation to ears, nose and throat. Long-term exposure can cause anemia, impaired attention span or even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More than 6 million gallons of crude oil leaked from an oil tank at the Paulsboro Refinery in February 2012. People who lived near the refinery reported getting sick from the odor.

“There were scattered reports of people with eye irritation ... or respiratory irritation,” The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Larry Hajna told the day after that leak. He added there were no major health or environmental concerns.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us