On Friday ten children were taken to the Wairarapa Hospital in Masterton after a Carterton resident’s property caused mass illness at two local schools.
Illya MacLellan had received a delivery of mushroom compost at 1pm, which sat adjacent to South End School. After hearing reports of children and teachers feeling sick around 1.20pm, MacLellan immediately feared his compost was responsible.
“When I got home on Friday night I thought to myself, ‘oh my goodness, it might have been that compost that they smelled’.” The police agreed, with Wairarapa Area Commander Scott Miller confirming the mushroom compost was seeping sulphur gas.
“That compost was fresh and was actually hot,” explained Miller. “Part of the process for compost is to heat it to 80 degrees Celsius. When that occurs with the other manufacturing processes within, that compost creates a sulphur smell. That sulphur smell can be very strong.”
Over a hundred students and teachers, including MacLellan’s daughter, were affected by the gas and put through a Fire and Emergency-led decontamination process. The children are unlikely to face any long-term effects from the gas, which was described as smelling like rotting pig flesh and eggs. The compost is now spread in a thin layer to prevent a repeat of the event.