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James Buchanan Middle School closed due to fuel leak

March 22, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - A heating-oil leak in the basement of James Buchanan Middle School meant no school for 650 students Monday, but Superintendent Thomas Stapleford said classes will resume at the normal time today.

The leak occurred when a seal on a heating oil filter leading to a newly installed furnace in the basement failed over the weekend, according to Business Manager Rick Kerr. A maintenance person attending a Sunday afternoon sporting event noticed the smell, he said.

"We've got that under control and cleaned up," Stapleford said Monday afternoon.

Stapleford said the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection inspected the spill Monday afternoon and determined the school could safely reopen.

"We don't know how many gallons were in there for sure," said Dusty Stoner, chief of the Mercersburg, Montgomery, Peters and Warren Fire Co. It did not appear to be a large amount, but some had seeped into a capped floor drain.

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Because the drain was capped, Stoner said all of the leak was contained within the school. He said the pipe had to be pumped out and a chemical was used to absorb the oil on the floor.

Doors and windows of the school were opened to get the fumes out of the building, Stoner said.

Leaked oil inside one of the boilers did ignite when the boilers were restarted Monday morning, but the only effect was excess smoke from the heating system's external exhaust.

Stoner said school, fire company and environmental officials met with contractors to determine whether it was safe to reopen the building today.

"It's a pretty extensive wall-to-wall renovation," Kerr said of the work going on at the school. It was, in part, prompted by an incident a few years ago in which steam pipes in the school burst, causing it to be closed for repairs for about two weeks. During that time, the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students were sent to a local church, Mercersburg Academy and the high school.

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