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Gasoline Smell Brings Williamstown Fire Department to College Dorm

by Stephen Dravis
iBerkshires Staff
image description
Williamstown Fire Department responds to a gasoline odor complaint from Morgan Hall, left.

Fire Department personnel check out the source of the odor, a hole that is part of a steam tunnel replacement project.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Fire Department plans to investigate the construction work that appears to have produced a smell of gasoline in the mechanical room of a Williams College dormitory.
Fire Chief Craig Pedercini said the smell appeared to be related to the use of gasoline by a contractor working on a steam line replacement project on West Lawn, to the west of Morgan Hall, a 100-bed residence hall at the corner of Spring and Main Streets that currently is not occupied.
After evaluating the situation for nearly two hours, Pedercini said there was no fire or health issue, but the Fire Department and college were employing fans to push the odor out of Morgan Hall and prevent it from infiltrating nearby West College, a 45-room Main Street dorm to the west of the steam tunnel replacement work.
The report was called in to the fire station at about 5:55 on Thursday evening.
"The first arriving officers investigated and found they did have an odor of gasoline in the building," Pedercini said.
"What we’re finding out now is that the contractor was doing some work, and there was a need to use Styrofoam as part of it, and, apparently, a need to remove the Styrofoam. And they used gasoline, it sounds like, to dissolve the Styrofoam away from the pipe. The odor is just lingering in that hole and that steam vault."
Pedercini said he did not believe that it was standard practice to use gasoline that manner.
"No," he said. "I would say no. There will be more looked into that part, but it’s not kosher to me at all."
All of the gasoline use was outside the building, in the hole dug for the steam tunnel project, Pedercini said.
"You can see where they were using it," he said. "The vapors will hang in that ditch and find a nook or a crack or if there’s a pipe running [into the building] and there’s a little space round it, the vapors will seep through."
There were a half-dozen people in Morgan Hall when the alarm sounded. The building was cleared by the time firefighters arrived, Pedercini said.
"It’s not full of kids yet," he said. "It’s kind of nice that if it’s going to happen, it happen now.
"It’s unfortunate, but I think it’s a poor practice [to use gasoline in that manner]. I’ll be investigating it, and I’m sure the college will want to know why they were doing it."
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