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Archive for Friday, February 12, 1993

KU STILL SEEKING CHEMICAL SOURCE

February 12, 1993

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Kansas University authorities today continued to search for details about a chemical incident Wednesday that led to the evacuation of five KU buildings.

Mike Russell, environmental health and safety officer for the KU Environmental Health and Safety Service, said this morning that officials still weren't sure whether the chemical was dumped by someone or whether it leaked from a container.

Russell and KU police Lt. John Mullens said officials had uncovered no evidence that someone purposely dumped the chemical, which authorities believe was a mercaptan compound. Mercaptan often is added to odorless gases, such as natural gas, to give them a detectable smell.

Russell said the most likely explanation was that the chemical was poured down a drain by someone who wasn't sufficiently trained to handle it.

If the chemical was inadvertently dumped, Russell said, university officials hope to find the person or people responsible.

"It's not that we want to discipline anybody," he said. "We just want to say, `Hey, this can't happen again.' "

Russell said officials also were trying to determine how the smell traveled so far across campus. The smell was detected in Malott, Wescoe, Marvin and Lindley halls as well as in the Art and Design Building.

Authorities evacuated those buildings late Wednesday morning. All but Malott were reopened by 2:30 p.m. Malott was reopened by 5:30 p.m.

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