Alden gas leak disrupts studies


A crack in the gas line running under North Main Street caused the gas leak that closed Alden Hall Friday afternoon, leaking fumes through drain lines and into the building, according to Cliff Willis, director of the Physical Plant.
The leak was confirmed and repaired by National Fuel, western Pennsylvania’s natural gas provider.
Willis said that the line was most likely part of the same system used throughout Meadville, but that Allegheny can do nothing to regulate it, because it’s not owned by the college.
“It is an older line, I believe, but it’s not a college utility,” he said.
However, he said that the only buildings that can be affected by gas leaks are the science buildings because of the gas lines running to laboratories, something that is not generally included in the campus’ other structures.
None of the buildings at Allegheny are equipped with gas detectors, according to Willis, but National Fuel adds a chemical to their gas that creates a distinct odor meant to warn if there is a leak in a building.
It was this odor that Tamara Misner, professor of Geology, smelled and mentioned to Samuel Reese, who called the Physical Plant.
“I went downstairs to get some equipment from the basement, and it smelled like gas. Worse than usual,” Misner said. “I mean, oftentimes, it would smell like gas down there, but this time it smelled really strong.”
Pauling Lanzine, the secretary of Alden hall, who was in the building at the time, said that the subsequent evacuation went very smoothly.
“The Physical Plant came with the gas meter, the gas meter detected it, National Gas was called, and at that point the building was evacuated,” she said. “It was really quite simple.”
Because the building was closed for a large portion of Friday and the weekend, some teachers were unable to get things out of their offices and some students were unable to work on lab assignments.
To fix the leak, National Fuel cut out the section of damaged piping and added a new section to repair the leak, Willis said.
“I’m glad they finally figured out where the leak was coming from,” Misner said. “It has seemed to have been better so far, so hopefully that takes care of it. But it’s an old building and old pipes and so you know these things happen, I guess.”
Willis encouraged students and faculty who smell gas to notify the school.
“If [students] are ever concerned about a problem, definitely contact security after hours or the Physical Plant, we’ll check it out,” he said.