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School reopens following gas leak

From staff reports

The tank that leaked a foul-smelling gas Monday, forcing evacuation of a LeRoy school, came from Peoples Natural Gas Co. in Decorah, Iowa, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Five people in the Whipple Heights Alternative Learning Center were taken to Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester to be checked and at least a dozen others were examined by local emergency medical technicians. None were hospitalized.

The school was closed as a precaution Tuesday and reopened today.

The mercaptan gas, which is added to natural gas to produce an odor so a natural gas leak can be detected, was in a tank that Peoples Natural Gas officials thought was empty when they gave it to another party to be recycled, said Dave Perry, senior DNR environmental specialist in Des Moines, Iowa. It was taken to LeRoy Iron and Metal, which is just across the Minnesota-Iowa border in Iowa, he said.

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The firm thought the tank was empty and it was put into a cutter that released the gas, he said.

Peoples Natural Gas has assumed responsibility for the tank, he said. It tried to neutralize the odor with a citric product, Perry said.

The DNR has ordered both the scrap company and Peoples Natural Gas to send a letter to the department within a month, giving details about how the accident happened, how they responded and how they will try to make sure it doesn't happen again, he said.

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