School Illnesses are Blamed on Chimney Flue

Franklin – Ben Franklin Elementary School here will be close Friday to replace a malfunctioning chimney flue that caused a carbon monoxide buildup in the school and resulted in 59 pupils and three teachers needing medical care a school district official said.

Classes are expected to resume Monday. “We’re somewhat surprised of the cause,” said Franklin School Superintendent Gerald K. Freitag on Thursday. “The flue is only four years old, which is the same as the boiler it is attached to. But I’m a lot happier today because at least I have an answer to what caused this.”

A seam had separated in the ductwork of the flue, allowing gas fumes to seep back into the building and circulate throughout the ventilation system, he said.

The school was closed at shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday after children complained throughout the day of headaches and nausea, two symptoms of overexposure to carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas. Pupils and teachers were taken to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Only one teacher was admitted and later released, Freitag said.

The school was closed Thursday while school officials and an independent heating contractor sought the cause. The boiler and hot-water heater were tested and found not to be a source of the problem. Workers found the split seam as they examined the piping inside the chimney.

Letters were sent to parents on Thursday, explaining the cause of the gas buildup and what was being done to correct the problem, Freitag said.

An excerpt from “The Journey Sentinel” by Darryl Enriquez – Waukesha County.