A chlorine leak from the swimming pool system at Mauston’s Olson Middle School forced the evacuation of the school Friday morning.
According to Mile Bluff Medical Center officials, 46 people were transported to their facility to be treated because of exposure to chlorine fumes. All had been treated and released from the medical center by mid-afternoon Friday.
The leak was reported about 10:15 a.m. Friday. When fumes spread through the middle school, the facility was quickly evacuated to Mauston High School, which is a short distance west of the middle school.
The chlorine fumes, according to early reports, caused vomiting among many middle school students.
Those reports prompted the Mauston Fire Department and Mauston Ambulance service to be sent to the school. When the number of people affected initially was reported at 40, additional ambulances were sent there from Elroy Ambulance and Camp Douglas Ambulance.
The Juneau County Sheriff’s Department and Wisconsin State Patrol also raced to the school to secure the building. Concerned parents rapidly arrived at the school to attempt to pick up their children, but were told they would need to wait outside while EMTs examined those who had been in the middle school and complained of illness from the fumes.
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Most middle school students spent the rest of the Friday school day at the high school.
Mile Bluff Medical Center, which went on an emergency footing when the scope of the incident was known, said people from the school were checked for serious problems from the exposure to chlorine. But there was no indication that anyone was seriously affected or would need to be admitted to the hospital or sent to another hospital for more advanced treatment.
Mauston Fire Chief Kim Hale confirmed the evacuation was the result of a chlorine leak from the school’s pool system. He said the leak appeared to be an accident.
Chlorine fumes, stirred up by the morning’s brisk winds, were apparent outside the school long after the evacuation. Those who were evacuated were spared from needing to be outdoors in near-freezing temperatures and brisk winds by waiting in the high school’s indoor common area.
Classes and other events at the middle school were called off because of the leak. The concentration of chlorine inside the school was reportedly high enough to require some staff members to change their clothes before being released.