HARPERSVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) – An overwhelming odor from the papermill in Childersburg caused a school in Harpersville to end classes early Friday after some students started feeling sick.
Coosa Valley Academy says the early dismissal was out of an abundance of caution due to a strong odor coming from the paper mill. Some people in the community say the smell was worse than ever before, while others say it was nothing out of the ordinary.
“It has been smelling ever since I moved to Vincent when I was five years old in 1953,” local resident Pat Roper said.
The smell caused some students at Coosa Valley Academy to feel sick.
“All seem to be fine, of course. I did offer masks for all of them that felt like they needed that. We have our air purifiers in all our rooms so we offered everything we could do to make it a good environment for the kids until they could go home,” says Pam Lovelady, the head of Coosa Valley Academy.
“It’s a pretty rough morning this morning. Usually, we get an odor that’s similar to that coming from Kimberly Clark up the road, but today it was really stout,” says Reece Donahoo, dean of students at Coosa Valley Academy. “It got worse progressively throughout the day inside the school which led to us letting the students go home so we could make sure we took care of their safety first.”
Coosa Valley Academy students were all off campus by noon Friday.
“I think most of the smell got trapped in the school and now it’s pretty clear outside but it’s still pretty pungent in here,” Donahoo said.
Some people in the community say while it was strong throughout the morning, the smell had gone away by the afternoon.
“I mean you walked outside and it was, I mean you could smell something. It was something different,” says Johnny Cotes who lives in Harpersville resident. “It was a little stink-like, maybe like the smell of onions.”
Lovelady says the fire department came out and confirmed the smell was from the papermill and not a gas in the area.
“I’ve been living in this area all my life and we often have an unusual smell from the mill, but that’s a pulp smell from pulpwood,” Lovelady said. “I think that this time it was extreme and I was a little bit worried about it.”