Gas leak scare caused by transported chemicals

University Police (UP) evacuated the Natural and Environmental Science (NES) and Chemistry (CHE) buildings on Tuesday because of a reported gas leak in NES.

UP received a call at 11:16 a.m. notifying it of the leak. NES was evacuated at 11:20 a.m. and CHE at 11:28 a.m., said UP spokeswoman Lt. Meg Ross.

Though nothing was wrong in CHE, it was evacuated because of its proximity, she said.

“When we got over there we could smell it, so we evacuated the building,” Ross said.

Tampa Fire Rescue and USF Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) also responded to calls.

A MoBull text message was sent out around 11:40 a.m. saying, “Attention Tampa Campus – Gas leak/smell in the NES and CHE. Buildings are evacuated and rescue personnel on scene.”

Ross said a contractor removing a chemical from the building took it down the elevator, which caused the smell to travel throughout the area.

EHS received the call as a routine odor complaint, and did not know UP had also been called, said Charles Brown, EHS safety and compliance manager.

When EHS responded to the call, Brown brought equipment to monitor the situation, he said. He walked it through the building and detected no harmful chemicals. NES was aired out with large electrical fans to rid the building of the smell.

Nicole Roe, EHS supervisor, said the smell was caused by the chemical 2-propanethiol, which was being used for research in a lab in NES 332.

She said 2-propanethiol is classified as a flammable liquid and considered an irritant because of its odor. It is in the same family as mercaptan, which is an odorous chemical added to natural gas so that it can be easily detected in the case of a leak.

UP officers and Allied Barton guards handled security, Brown said.

Students were allowed back in the building around 12:46 p.m. Another MoBull text message was sent at that time – “USF Tampa: NES, CHE incident cleared. No injuries reported. Safe to resume normal business.”

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