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Aiken County Public School District releases statement on ‘strange odor’ at Oakwood-Windsor

April 28, 2017

The Aiken County Public School District has released a statement regarding a “strange odor” near Oakwood-Windsor Elementary School on Wednesday.

The school district said in a written statement issued to the Aiken Standard on Thursday that during regularly scheduled outdoor activities at the elementary school on Wednesday, teachers and students noticed a strange odor in the air.

“As a precautionary safety measure, students were taken indoors and any further outdoor activities were canceled,” the statement said. “A crop-dusting plane was in operation in the area during the time in which the odor was detected. That has not yet been confirmed as the source of the odor at the school.”

Robbie McMillan, pilot and owner of the cropdusting operation who contacted the newspaper on Thursday, called media reports about pesticides blanketing into the school “completely bogus” and hearsay.

McMillan said the aircraft is equipped with global positioning systems that track its every move, including where it does and does not spray. He said Wednesday the wind was blowing west to southwest continuously all day and 4 to7 mph away from the school.

McMillan said, as a rule, from about April to July, the operation flies one or two days a week.

In a few weeks, it may be more rigorous when fertilizer is put down, according to McMillan, but the operation generally does not fly anymore after that.

He added the operation did not fly over the school but has been tracked around the school; however, operators try to fly when school is not in session.

“We try to make every effort to be hospitable,” McMillan said.

He said Walther Farms uses the airplane and chose the method, because it has the “least environmental impact.”

The school district said no injuries were reported on Wednesday.

“One student with a pre-existing respiratory problem visited a doctor, but was cleared of any issues potentially related to spraying in the area,” the school district’s statement reads.

The school district’s statement goes on to say air quality tests were performed during the school day, and the district is awaiting those results.

“District maintenance staff are conducting a thorough inspection of the school’s HVAC systems,” it continues. “A professional firm will perform added cleaning measures alongside our daily maintenance and cleaning schedule.”

According to the district, outdoor air conditions will be monitored prior to all future outdoor activities at the school.