Leaks in Phillips
Typically, noxious fumes might result in a punch
from your roommate, but on Tuesday they closed Philips Gym for over
A crack in a plastic fitting on the tank of chlorine used to treat
the pool leaked five to 10 gallons, and the Oberlin Fire Department
and the College’s hazardous material contractor, Guardian
Environmental, had to be called in to control the situation.
Scott Collins, a swimming pool and water treatment technician, first
noticed the crack during the night. He attended to the situation
and believing that he had it contained left a note for the morning
In the morning, heating, venting and air conditioning technician
Ron Webber inspected the leak, which had intensified overnight.
“It had apparently worsened beyond what Collins originally
thought it could hold over,” Associate Director of Facility
Operations Eric McMillion said.
Around 7 a.m., Webber notified McMillion and Safety and Security.
The building was immediately evacuated. While not heavily used in
the wee hours of the morning around 25 patrons were still in the
building including the pool area.
“It was a pain in the ass to have to get out and get my stuff
and run outside in my swimsuit, but it was good because I wouldn’t
want to be swimming when there was chlorine in the building,”
junior Nicole Middaugh said.
Oberlin Fire Department was called to help secure the building.
The OFD began ventilating the area mechanically and the air handling
units were shut down so that it wouldn’t circulate the vapors
into other areas of the building.
“In ways, I think they were overly cautious, but you never
know how far those fumes are going to go,” Recreation Center
director Betsy Bruce said. “Those fumes probably never left
the basement and the pool. I don’t think they came into the
rest of the building, but they could have.”
OFD then proceeded to transfer the chlorine from the 500 gallon
tank into smaller holding tanks until Guardian Environmental arrived
on the scene.
Once all the chlorine was transferred and the building was aired
out, the gym reopened at noon, although Bruce chose to keep the
pool closed for the rest of the day until the water could be properly
The fitting has been replaced, and the tank is currently being hydro-statically
tested to make sure the repair is sufficient.
“We need to start looking at stronger maintenance. Naturally
things are going to start corroding, machines need to be updated,”
Bruce said. “Something that’s pumping everyday non-stop
is going to wear out at some time and needs to be updated, upgraded
“Honestly,” she added, “we need to do a better
job at that.”
Bruce says she believes this has happened before. “I have
heard that this has happened before and that one of the workers
was very badly hurt because they didn’t know the chlorine
was leaking and went down there. It can be pretty toxic and burn
pretty readily. But I can’t tell you about past history because
I wasn’t here.”