NJ school emptied after gas released from refinery

June 2, 2011 9:52:15 AM PDT
Paulsboro High School in Gloucester County was evacuated today after a refinery blip led to the release of a sulfuric odor that permeated throughout parts of the area.

The junior/senior high school is in close proximity to the Paulsboro Refinery, owned by PBF Energy Co. LLC - located just a couple blocks away. The refinery was formerly the Valero refinery.

At about 8:45 a.m. Thursday a strong sulfur-like odor permeated Paulsboro Junior/Senior High School. Once it was apparent that the smell was much worse inside than outside, where the wind was blowing hard, the students were evacuated from the building.

School Superintendant Dr. Frank Scambia tells Action News, "Fire, along with EPA along with Valero came out - brought their instruments, tested the air, made sure that each one of the places we have, indicated the smell was gone. Once that happened, and that was about 9:30ish, we returned the students to class."

The evacuation last about an hour. Meanwhile, Dr. Scambia says two or three students got sick to their stomachs from the rotten egg-like odor. One student was sent to the hospital due to a pre-existing medical condition, and one faculty member was treated by the school nurse.

The refinery called this morning's incident an "operational upset".

There was a release at the refinery back in 2007, which also forced the school's evacuation. At that time the company, Valero, was fined.

Officials know for sure that the odor came from the refinery. Refinery officials are meeting at this hour to try and determine exactly what caused the release.