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Matt Han / Gavel Media

Chemical Leak Forces Temporary Evacuation of Merkert Hall

A laboratory chemical leak prompted a sudden evacuation of Merkert Hall on Monday afternoon, requiring the presence of the Boston Fire Department. The event proved quite disruptive, as helicopters hovered overhead and police blocked off Beacon street while Hazmat teams worked in the building. However, the building, “has since reopened following an inspection by the Boston Fire Department,” according to University Spokesman Jack Dunn. No injuries occurred during the incident.

Initial reports indicated that the leak was a Level 2 Hazmat incident, which by Boston Fire Department standards can mean:

  • “A spill in excess of 50 gallons of petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel oil, fuel oil, etc.;
  • unconfirmed reports of chemical spills, leaking containers, process malfunction accidents;
  • fires producing irritating, corrosive or flammable vapors or other hazardous conditions.”

However, the Boston Fire Department later clarified on Twitter that the leak actually received a Level 3 response, indicating that the incident met one of the following three criteria:

  • “Materials or conditions which require the use of the chemical protective clothing. 
  • The evacuation of areas and buildings adjacent to the chemical emergency. 
  • Extreme conditions necessitating additional equipment and specially trained personnel.”

According to University Communications, the incident occurred when, “a leaking cylinder [of hydrogen sulfide] inside of a lab in the Eugene F. Merkert Chemistry Center caused a small chemical release” at 12:46 PM. After noticing the leak, “lab researchers placed the cylinder inside of a fume hood,” following lab safety protocol. Students and faculty evacuated the building, and police and the fire department soon arrived on the scene. 

Initial assessments indicated that the fume hood’s ventilation system was able to contain the leak and keep the gas, “isolated to the hood,” as, “Hazmat companies entered and monitored the air quality.” According to the university statement, while, “Boston Fire Department metered the lab and the building,” they, “reported no findings,” of the gas in the air. 

At around 1:50 PM, officials, “determined the building to be safe,” and returned the building, “back over to facilities,” as students and faculty were cleared to reenter the building.

When reached for comment, university spokesman Jack Dunn sought to allay any sense of panic or sensationalism after the event, writing that the incident was simply, “a small chemical leak...that was quickly contained,” as he reiterated that no injuries were sustained during the incident.

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