School evacuated after sewer line break

FULTON, Mo. — About 600 high school students were released at 12:30 p.m. Thursday after a sewer line separated, causing sewage to back up at Fulton High School.

Fulton School Superintendent Jacque Cowherd said students were assembled, based on areas where they lived, and were assigned to a special one-time bus route to that area.

“We basically used five school buses to operate a shuttle service to take the kids home,” Cowherd said. Students involved included those in grades 9-12.

Tim Echelmeier, director of buildings and grounds, said a sewer-line camera was inserted into the sewer line by Hornbuckle Plumbing of Fulton. “We could see where the sewer line had separated in one and perhaps two locations south of the building. All of the damage was outside of the building and underground,” Echelmeier said.

Cowherd said the sewer line backed up Thursday morning into a bathroom in the business wing of the building. It caused a strong odor throughout that area of the structure.

Nine classes had to be moved to other areas of the building. Officials were concerned about youngsters becoming ill and the potential of toxic materials in the sewer line.

“We also were concerned about shutting off bathrooms. Not much was getting done in the classes that were disrupted, so we decided to shut the school down early. We wanted to get the situation fixed so we could be sure to have school on Friday,” Cowherd said.

The normal school schedule will resume Friday.

During the spring break, Cowherd said, the sewer line will be dug up and repaired.

Echelmeier said he didn’t know what could have caused the sewer line on the south side of the building to separate. “It occurred in one of the areas where an addition to the building was made a few years ago,” Echelmeier said.

“The line is open and flowing now. It’s just restricted. Potentially, we could continue to operate it for a period of time. But since we now know the cause of the problem, we will have it repaired promptly during the spring break when the kids are out of school,” Echelmeier said.

“In the meantime, we have adjusted our furnaces on the roof of the building to make sure fresh air is flowing into the building,” Echelmeier said.

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