The incident command center provided by the Ferndale School District was bustling yesterday as officials from several emergency response agencies, local industrial businesses and the district came together and exchanged information about what could possibly have caused several staff and students to fall ill. They were doing this while handling the logistics of getting students home with minimal risk and confusion, something most everyone involved had practiced during the large-scale exercises Ferndale has become known for.
By the end of day yesterday, officials said no specific identification had been made of the substance which appeared to have caused several staff and students at different schools to become ill. As well, no specific source had been identified.
District officials did get an “all clear” from inspectors that no gas or other leaks had been found in any of the school buildings and it was safe to resume classes in the buildings today.
Today, the investigation continued. But, according to Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management Deputy Director John Gargett, they do not know anything more today than they did yesterday.
Northwest Clean Air Authority (NWCAA) in Mount Vernon reported today they had also received reports yesterday of a strong sulfur odor in the vicinity of west Ferndale. When contacted by NWCAA, a representative of the nearby Phillips 66 refinery said an “upset” (disruption) in the refining process caused a strong sulfur odor at their facility and that it had dissipated by mid-afternoon.
NWCAA noted their inspector dispatched to the area could not locate or verify a source for the odor.
Gargett said the information published today by NWCAA was part of the information they were working with yesterday. “We are continuing to investigate this incident since, while there are different possibilities about what may have happened, we do not know anything for certain yet.”