While People Demand Answers, Town Of Brookhaven Says It Doesn't Have Many To Give

BELLPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Teachers say they are getting sick in the classroom, as a result of a terrible odor.

They think they know where the smell is coming from, but as CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Tuesday nothing has been done to fix the problem.

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Teachers at Frank P. Long Intermediate School say they can’t teach. Children, at times, can’t play outside because of the overwhelming smell.

“It smells like raw sewage, rotting fish,” fifth grade teacher Joe Tortora said.

“Other days it is chemical and sewage mixed together,” fourth grade teacher Trish Gallina said.

“There is a terrible taste in your mouth, like a dusty metal taste,” added Trish Palermo, vice president of the Bellport Teachers Association.

They said the stench is so bad at times they shut vents, close windows and evacuate classrooms.

“Some of (the students) get nauseous, headaches, dizziness,” Gallina said.

“It’s horrible because you’re teaching children and in the back of your head you’re thinking what’s happening to these kids that are just innocently sitting there and what’s happening to me working here?” Tortora added.

So what’s causing the stink? Teachers blame a nearby landfill.  Its operator, the Town of Brookhaven, calls it, “one of the most closely monitored and best-managed waste facilities on Long Island.”

A town spokesman told CBS2, “In four weeks of monitoring around the school, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has not found any odors emanating from the landfill.”

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The surrounding area, the town said, is filled with industrial plants and a compost facility. It claims the awful smell may be coming from somewhere else.

But teachers want air quality monitors on school grounds, not inspectors who come after the smell dissipates, Gusoff reported.

“They come and sniff. No, it’s not enough. We feel that there is something happening,” Palermo said.

“We are tired of being told there are no odors,” Gallina added. “When you are in this building or in this vicinity and you smell it, it is disgusting. They are pretty much calling us liars. We are not lying.”

The teachers have taken their complaints to Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

“These are not just a nuisance; it could be damaging to our health. Fine particulate matter in sulfides could cause respiratory ailments as well as heart ailments,” said the Citizens Campaign’s Maureen Dolan Murphy.

Parents of the fourth and fifth graders said they are very concerned.

“The kids have to take this in, so it’s going to affect them. If it’s now, it may down the road,” Melinda Ariola said.

Teachers said study time is over. They want a solution.

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The Town of Brookhaven says it’s up to the DEC to monitor air quality. It has not responded to CBS2’s requests for comment.