April 14, 2023 | NEWS | By Michael Braithwaite, Co-Editor-In-Chief

At approximately 10:45 a.m. MST on Friday, April 14, Colorado College natural science students had to be evacuated from their classrooms. According to eyewitnesses on the scene, sulfuric acid that was left too long in a General Chemistry I oven burned enough that smoke escaped from the confines of the fume hood and into the classroom, potentially contaminating Olin Hall with a biohazard.

As a result of the possible exposure to the burnt chemicals, both Olin and the conjoined Barnes Science Center had to be evacuated. While fire doors separate the two buildings in case of an emergency such as this one, they did not instantly close, potentially contaminating Barnes as well.

“Any chemical that gets lit on fire could cause carcinogenic smoke,” said Natalie Van Tol ’25, who was in class in Barnes at the time of the incident. “We don’t want that.”

Students were left standing out in the rain as professors and staff scrambled to adjust their lesson plans to the quickly-changed learning environment. After waiting about 45 minutes, most released their classes for the afternoon.

“It was just a minor accident in the chemistry [lab], no one is hurt,” said Rachel Wonciar, the chemical stockroom supervisor for the chemistry department. “As soon as they opened the drying oven and the smoke came out of it, it set off the fire alarm, but since sulfuric acid is involved there, you have to evaluate the space [and] see if it’s safe to go back into.”

The leak comes almost exactly 10 years after a similar chemical leak set off alarms in Olin, one that sent 13 people to the hospital due to the building not being properly evacuated in time.

Barnes was cleared at approximately 11:15 a.m. after it was determined that the fire doors indeed sealed the building off in time. HAZMAT had to be called to the scene in order to properly clear Olin before anyone was allowed back inside.

At approximately 12 p.m., over an hour after the evacuation began, CC sent a mass emergency alert telling students to keep clear of the Barnes and Olin buildings. Just seven minutes later, an all-clear message was sent out.

A little after noon, Armstrong Hall also experienced an alarm and had to be evacuated. However, per multiple witness accounts, that alarm was a malfunction and was not correlated with the evacuation of Barnes and Olin.

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