Defective vacuum pump potential cause for NSERL evacuation

Photo By Surjaditya Sarkar | Mercury Staff

UTD’s Natural Science and Engineering Research Laboratory, or NSERL, was evacuated around 11:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 10 due to reports of a chemical spill on the building’s fourth floor.

Reports of noise and a strange aroma on the fourth floor activated building alarms as well as the UTD Alert system, warning students to avoid the area. BSB, the building beside NSERL, was also evacuated, and UTDPD partitioned off Rutford Avenue from Synergy Park Boulevard all the way to Residence Hall West. Two hours later, the alert was cleared and NSERL reopened. The alert may have been triggered by a malfunctioning vacuum pump, according to a source in a nearby lab. The Richardson Fire Department and Plano HAZMAT team collaborated with UTDPD to investigate the cause of the alarm, which is still under investigation by Institutional Risk and Safety.

Chemistry graduate student Sneha Kumari was evacuated from her lab in BSB. She said there was little communication from UTD about the situation and people “were operating off zero information,” leading the students involved to think “it was an inconvenience.”

“People didn’t really know what exactly they were evacuating for … no incident report email was sent to us at the end of the day or the next day saying, ‘This has happened, and this is how it was taken care of and be careful of X, Y, Z thing in the future,’” Kumari said.

Tony Walton, assistant director of Facilities Operations, and Kathan McCallister, associate vice president for Research Operations, said in an email statement that they will reach out to stakeholders when more information is available.

“We want to emphasize the institution’s commitment to the operational continuity of our research buildings while prioritizing the safety of all personnel engaged in our research endeavors,” the statement said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *