Longwood Campus Evacuated Due to Nitrogen Leak

Students, faculty, and workers were forced to evacuate three building on Harvard’s Longwood Medical Area after officials reported a nitrogen leak in a research facility at 655 Huntington Ave. at 7:10 a.m. Monday.

Buildings at 180 and 188 Longwood Ave. were also evacuated.

The leak was brought under control just after 9:30 a.m., prompting officials to allow workers back into the affected buildings.

Aaron L. Schwartz, a second-year graduate student who was working in his department’s building at 180 Longwood Ave. on Monday, witnessed several fire trucks, police cars, and a helicopter during the evacuation.

Schwartz said he was unsure about the necessity of the evacuations.

“I don't know how bad a leak like that has to be for it to pose a danger to people,” Schwartz said. “I'd speculate that outdoor leaks would be less dangerous.”  

A pressure relief valve on a gas tank holding up to 3,000 pounds of liquid nitrogen released the nitrogen outside of the research facility building, according to the Boston Fire Department’s official Twitter account.

Steve MacDonald, a spokesperson for the Boston Fire Department, said the leak did not pose significant danger, as nitrogen is not flammable and the tanks were outside. The buildings were evacuated as a precautionary measure to prevent the nitrogen from displacing oxygen inside the facilities, according to MacDonald.

The Fire Department waited for representatives from a medical gas company to facilitate the shutdown of the tanks. It took approximately an hour for the representatives to arrive and five minutes to shut down the leak. Response to the incident was then turned over to Harvard officials for investigation.

“The city of Boston has a lot of research and medical facilities, and this is just one of the byproducts of having so many facilities,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald also noted that, “colleges usually have a pretty good plan to deal with these [leaks].”

—Staff writer Callie H. Gilbert can be reached at callie.gilbert@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @calliegilbert95.

—Staff writer Steven H. Tenzer can be reached at stenzer@college.harvard.edu.

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