Orchard Hill Elementary School odor mystery may be solved - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Orchard Hill Elementary School odor mystery may be solved


Cedar Falls Community School District leaders have a plan to, hopefully, put an end to odor problems at Orchard Hill Elementary School.

Investigators from the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are among the experts charged with identifying the source of a foul smell which has plagued three classrooms since January..

It's forced kids out of their classrooms, caused health problems for students and teachers, and is costing thousands of dollars. But still, nobody knows what, exactly, is causing that smell.

"We've had mechanical contractors come in, air sampling done, we've had analysis done by two industrial hygienists. We've had roofing contractors look at the roof. We've had plumbers in to analyze the drain system. The HVAC system has been analyzed," said Superintendent Dr. David Stoakes.

Frustrating is the word Stoakes used to describe it, as test after test revealed nothing.

"No one was able to definitively tell us what the source of the odor was," said Stoakes.

Luckily, an unofficial odor expert lives just up the highway. A few years ago, Waverly Shell Rock Schools faced a similar stench. Stoakes reached out to Superintendent Jere Vyverberg for advice on the situation in Cedar Falls.  

Vyverberg said, they believe the cause was the adhesive remover used on their concrete floors during a renovation. The same product used by Orchard Hill.

The only solution that worked at WSR was to tear out the concrete and start over, and that's exactly what Stoakes has planned.

"We really aren't 100% sure that this will solve the problem. We think it will, based on Waverly Shell Rock's experience. But we'll find out for sure in the fall," said Stoakes.

Stoakes believes, either way, they have to try. It worked in Waverly, and hopefully it will work here.

"The goal is that everybody will be back in Orchard Hill on the first day of school and this will be the end of the problem and nobody has to deal with it anymore," said Stoakes.

The project is expected to cost more than $200,000. That includes removing and re-installing the H-VAC system and cabinets in the classrooms. The money comes from the district's emergency budget.

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