On Tuesday, Sept. 7, a subcontractor working at the West Quad construction site struck and ruptured a natural gas service line for Chalmers Library due to a failure to follow excavation protocols. Students were immediately notified of the leak via Kenyon’s text message alert system.
In a break from the excavation protocol of Smoot Construction — the company building the West Quad — the subcontractor failed to register a service line with the Ohio Utilities Protection Service (OUPS), a state agency that provides free locating services of underground utilities at construction sites, upon its installation. The OUPS is committed to preventing excavators from damaging hidden utilities when performing construction work.
Smoot Construction immediately notified Assistant Director of Facilities Operations for Project Planning and Management Seth Millam of the accident. Millam informed the Office of Campus Safety about the rupture and arrived at the site of the leak with Maintenance Department personnel. Campus Safety then detected a natural gas odor in Chalmers Library and, in response, began evacuating the building. Smoot Construction shut the gas line off at 3:02 p.m., and gas utility services arrived shortly after to perform repairs on the line.
“The gas odor inside of Chalmers was a result of the gas leak mixing with the outside air intake for the building’s HVAC systems,” Millam wrote in an email to the Collegian.
Chalmers remained evacuated until the Mount Vernon Fire Department (MVFD) arrived to clear the building.
Millam said that the natural gas levels inside Chalmers weren’t high enough to be detected by Maintenance and MVFD equipment, and that they conducted a safety check of Rosse and Storer Halls but found no natural gas in the building.
In order to avoid future leaks, Smoot Construction’s safety department published a safety bulletin directed to subcontractors, reminding workers of the proper safety protocols required for excavation work on the site, such as marking utility lines. Millam also says that Smoot Construction personnel will provide additional oversight of subcontractors during future excavation work.