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Emergency Meeting Held After Licorice Odor Reported At Schools

Reported: Feb. 6, 2014 10:53 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 6, 2014 11:12 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Stefano DiPietrantonio) – There was an emergency meeting Thursday, after odor-related problems were reported at more than a dozen Kanawha County Schools. All Kanawha County Schools are back on schedule for Friday, so moms and kids set your alarms! There are no cancellations.

The latest water tests from the WV National Guard came back Thursday night, showing no detectable levels of MCHM in the water at any of the five locations, which had issues Wednesday and Thursday.

"We decided to bring this team together and get some direction, from all the agencies involved, The National Guard, the Health Department, the Governor's Office, the West Virginia Department of Education,” Dr. Ron Duerring, Kanawha County Schools superintendent, said. “Putting all the minds together, to make sure we're doing the right thing for our children."

West Virginia School Superintendent JHim Phares said they were on a very fine line, in regards to disrupting the instructional program.

"We know that some people are going to be upset with that, but folks, we're trying to move forward on a day to day basis," he said.

Phares stressed he believes the tap water is safe, based on Thursday night's testing, but to allay any further fears, he wants parents to know they are not using the tap water for anything.

Kids are getting bottled water. Food is being cooked using bottled water and the kitchen items are being cleaned using bottled water, he said, if that's what it takes to get kids back to school with no further interruptions.

But the magic number Thursday was 14 schools. 3 dismissed early with odor problems, and the other 11 had odors detected, but after school had already let out.

At J.E.Robbins Elementary on Charleston's West Side, kids were sent home at 10 a.m., after cooks operating the dishwater reported their eyes were burning and they felt sick. Students at Watts Elementary went home around 11:15 a.m. and Overbrook Elementary sent their kids home at noon, all of them reporting the black licorice smell.

One grandparent said she was getting fed-up with all of the scares.

"If I wasn't here,” Linda Turner said. “Their mother could possibly lose her job. It's just a difficult situation."

1st Sergeant Brian Burns with the WV National Guard said the schools have been cleared.

“It's safe for them to consume and use the water," he said.

Despite this, faucets are covered-up and bottled water will be used for everything. The WV National Guard response teams will be working with county officials, if there are any more reports of the funny odor, to get onsite, assess the situation and then take action, hopefully, without having to send kids home early any more.



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