Hazardous Incident Team Controls Nitrogen Leak

Monday, July 8, 2013 - 4:46pm

The Madison Fire Department Hazardous Incident Team (HIT) responded to the UW Madison Chemistry Building tonight for a liquid nitrogen leak. The team was able to slow the leak until a technician could respond to make repairs.

Engine 4 was sent to 1101 University Avenue at 6:39 p.m. after a passerby reported a vapor cloud next to the building. Upon arrival, the engine crew spoke with UW Police who had evacuated the building and were limiting access to the area. Engine 4 made an assessment and requested the assistance of the Hazardous Incident Team to control the leak.

A technician from an industrial gas company that supplies liquid nitrogen was requested to respond to the scene. Before he arrived, photos of the 3,000 gallon tank were sent to his phone. The technician instructed firefighters to turn off a switch on the control panel, reducing the amount of nitrogen leaking from the tank.

Firefighters used gas monitors to check the air quality in the building before allowing people to return. UW Safety personnel and building management remained on scene until the technician arrived to make the needed repairs.

Liquid nitrogen is an extremely cold liquid that can cause rapid suffocation and severe frostbite. Nitrogen is not poisonous, but is dangerous because it can deplete the oxygen level in an enclosed space.

  • Eric Dahl, 608-261-9845