OUS watching methane gas levels

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 3, 2005

Someone else's past has come back to haunt Ohio University Southern but Dean Dr. Dan Evans is confident that students need not fear.

The university e-mailed students Thursday alerting them to the fact that

methane gas has been detected in two of the underground monitoring wells located on the campus.

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Methane is an odorless gas that is non-toxic. It can, however, under certain circumstances become flammable.

The source of the methane remains unknown, but university officials believe it is the result of foundry sand deposited in the former sand pit located beneath the site and left by companies occupying the site years before OU purchased the property.

"Ohio University is only concerned with the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff," Evans said. "At this point, it is non-problematic but we want to make sure it stays that way."

Methane is not a problem while underground but the university wants to make sure that the gas does not move into nearby university buildings. The university has undertaken a series of precautions to regularly test the campus and its buildings for methane.

A temporary system was recently put into place to check for methane gas three times a week and no trace has been found anywhere.

"This is the result of something that happened on the site long before Ohio University owned it. As soon as we found out there was a potential for problems, which was just about a week ago, we immediately began testing," Evans said.

Chuck Hart, director of environmental health and safety at OU, agrees that this is no cause for alarm or panic.

"I don't think it is (cause for concern) because we are on top of it and monitoring the situation," he said. "… We just want to make sure there is no way it can migrate to any of the buildings. We are just taking all these precautions to make sure students, faculty and community are safe."

Looking ahead, the university plans to implement a permanent test monitoring and remediation system for the underground methane.

A plan is currently under development by the Foppe Technical Group, an independent geotechnical consulting group not affiliated with the university.

The Ohio University Department of Environmental Health and Safety technical staff and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency are also monitoring the situation.

The university will wait on a recommendation from the experts but Hart said those plans may involve venting the gas from the confined space into the atmosphere where it is harmless.