CSCC classes suspended Thursday, Friday because of exhaust leak

Friday, April 9, 2010

Classes were suspended Friday and Thursday afternoon at Columbia State Community College's Lewisburg campus as a result of an emergency and lack of staff.

Carbon monoxide floated through the college's building on Thursday morning because a loose heater vent sent gas into the building, according to Lewisburg Fire Chief Larry Williams.

College spokesman Paul Hickey said, "Everyone is OK, but there have been students and staffers who went to Marshall Medical Center and as far as we know there have been no serious injuries and no casualties."

However, the leak off of the boiler system allowed exhaust to enter the building and while only one person from the campus was expected to stay overnight in the hospital for observation, Hickey said on Thursday afternoon, "We are canceling classes this evening and Friday because staffers are at the hospital."

Williams and Capt. William Lynch were called to investigate at about 10 a.m. because students, faculty and staff were feeling ill. Williams and Lynch entered the building on South Ellington Parkway with a Lewisburg Gas Department employee whose meter showed that the level of carbon monoxide was over 350 parts per million. Nine parts per million is a safe level.

All units of the Emergency Medical Service were summoned to the scene. Extra EMS personnel were called in and Maury County sent two ambulances for additional backup. The Emergency Management Agency sent its Mobile Emergency Operations Center trailer, and the Lewisburg Police Department provided traffic control.

"All of our training and planning with these agencies really came together," the fire chief said. "It worked very well."

Nearly 100 people were evacuated from the building, Williams said. Four or five people were rushed to the Marshal Medical Center Emergency Room by ambulance. Several students felt sick and went home earlier.

By noon, emergency crews had searched the building to make sure no one was unconscious in one of the rooms. All the windows and doors were open, and blowers were running to ventilate the building.

"It's been repaired," Hickey said at mid-day Thursday about the vent. "The air levels are completely normal at 3 p.m. The gas company and HVAC (heating ventilation and cooling) companies are present they will be re-booting the system."