OZARK, AL (WSFA) – A rag. That's what caused a stinky problem at Carroll High School in Ozark on Wednesday, literally! Students eating lunch in the cafeteria recall seeing the first glimpse of that problem.
"We saw something start squirting across the room, and then we smelled this weird smell. We all just got up from the table and left," said Bee Jay, a sophomore at Carroll High.
What they saw squirting across the lunchroom was sewage sludge from a pipe that had burst near the building.
The problem started, apparently, after a dish rag got stuck in the pipes through a dishwasher or the kitchen toilet. Superintendent Mike Lenhart explained that because the building codes weren't so strict when the school was built, like they currently are, the sewage backs up inside the building, rather than outside.
"I immediately came over here and saw there was no way we could use the cafeteria. I was repulsed," Lenhart said at the time.
The sewage came up through a bathroom located inside the school's kitchen, and also out of a water fountain which was also in the lunchroom -- a drinking fountain.
Lenhart said, "We know that as soon as we get this repaired, it's only a matter of time before we have another crisis like this."
Teachers agree, saying issues like this have become business as usual at the school.
"This kind of thing is going to continue to be a problem until we get the facilities that we need," said Assistant Principal Juli Parrish.
But the fate of those new facilities hinges on an April tax referendum. School leaders hope this latest problem will be another eye opener for voters.
Lenhart said, "If this doesn't speak to the need of a new high school, I don't know what will."
For now, they can only work with what they have, hoping for a brighter and better smelling future. Classes will resume as normal Thursday, except for lunchtime. Since the cafeteria is closed until further notice, sack lunches will be brought in from another school, and the students will eat lunch in their classrooms.
Officials say they spent much of Wednesday night sanitizing everything in and around the lunchroom. The Health Department also showed up and is now testing the drinking water at the school to make sure it's safe to drink. Lunch in the cafeteria is planned again for Monday, if the tests come back negative for anything dangerous.