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SCHOOLS INSTALL FUME DEVICES

After 30 North Park Middle School pupils and teachers became ill Dec. 21, Lockport school officials have installed carbon monoxide detectors in all 10 school buildings.

Kevin Duffy, a School Board member, said detectors recently were put in all boiler rooms to alert administrators of any buildup of the harmful, odorless gas in their buildings.

Superintendent Bruce T. Fraser said the battery-operated detectors cost about $800.

"It was not a budget breaker," Fraser said. "It costs under $40 for a top-line residential model."

At least one detector, Fraser said, has been placed in each school boiler room, as well as the district administrative building at 130 Beattie Ave. Others are being placed in places where carbon monoxide may tend to collect and where students cannot reach and damage them.

The board approved purchasing the detectors after low levels of carbon monoxide apparently sickened 26 pupils and four teachers in North Park Middle School. All were released after treatment in area hospitals.

Fraser called the incident an anomaly. Unusual weather conditions, he said, caused carbon monoxide to be sucked into the school through the heating and ventilation systems, exposing staff and students to low levels of the gas.

Carbon monoxide normally goes up the smokestack and dissipates, he said.

"But the very cold temperatures and very still air that day created an almost inversion-type condition," he explained.

Instead of dissipating, the carbon monoxide was forced down and might have built up in the two courtyards and areas surrounding the building, he added.

Vents in the courtyards take in air and supply it to the boilers. On Dec. 21, carbon monoxide was sucked back into the building and apparently blended with fresh air needed to mix with fuel gas to help the boilers heat the school.

Duffy said he doubts it will happen again, but added, "The detectors are an inexpensive way to provide some peace of mind."

"We had a scare at North Park, so I think this is a good investment for kids' safety," he said, describing the incident as "a rare thing you can't predict, but represents a danger because you still can have problems with boiler and ventilation systems."

"The law requires us to have carbon monoxide detectors in our homes when we sell them or in apartment when tenants rent them," Duffy said. "So why not schools? I think we should hold them up to that standard."

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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