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Students evacuated after reported chemical leak at Mishawaka school

Chemical leak found in Walt Disney Elementary School // WSBT 22 Photo

One Penn-Harris-Madison elementary school may not open Monday because of a hazmat situation that shut down the school.

Students had to be evacuated this afternoon after a mysterious gas odor was reported.

South Bend Fire Department did tell school officials that the building is safe, but the school is taking extra precautions before classes can resume.

This all happened around 1 p.m. this afternoon at Walt Disney Elementary in Mishawaka.

Despite the scare, the principal tells WSBT the evacuation went smoothly.

When the Mishawaka Fire Department first went in to the building, firefighters came out complaining of a skin irritation.

By that time the kids were safely out and on their way home.

"Our teachers we do regular drills and so we were able to have all students out of the building very timely and account for every student,” said Ryan Towner, Walt Disney Elementary Principal.

South Bend's Hazmat team was called in to investigate.

Battalion Chief Bob Means says they learned from maintenance that a corrosive chemical used in the descaling of the boiler may have caused the problem.

"At this point we believe it's contained into a storage room where the chemical is stored and they believe it's a leak that's occurring in a pipe of the boiler,” said Means.

A portable shower was set up outside the building. Firefighters used it to wash off anything potentially dangerous.

The firefighters that first responded were taken to the hospital to get checked out after being exposed to the substance.

They are expected to be OK.

"You know everything is lethal to a certain concentration. So once they go in and do some measurements and try and figure out what's goings on. That's what the entry team is doing at this time,” said Means.

Crews took their time and found no evidence of anything toxic.

Disney's principal says the vendor of the equipment they believe failed will be checking it out over the weekend.

"We also have separate air quality testing that will be coming here over the weekend as an added precaution. We certainly will not resume school at this site until we are 100-percent certain that is is a safe environment,” said Towner.

At this point, school officials don't know when the school will reopen.

Classes will resume for kids on Monday and it may have to be at a different location.

Parents will be kept up to date by the school as that information becomes available.

Again, no students or staff were injured.

Veronica Ortega's live at the scene:


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