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Possible liquid nitrogen leak sends Poly students packing

Checking it out: Firefighters rushed to NYU Polytechnic’s Downtown campus to check out a potentially dangerous chemical leak on Wednesday.
Community News Group / Julianne Cuba

It was Wednesday afternoon nitro!

New York’s Bravest booted students in the middle of their science experiments at New York University Tandon School of Engineering when liquid nitrogen may have spilled from a tank, according to one graduate student who was forced to leave the campus for several hours on Wednesday as firefighters checked it out.

“The fire department just kind of came up to our floor and said, ‘You have to leave the building,’ ” said Park Sloper Joe Thomas. “We keep compressed cylinders of nitrogen around so maybe where it comes out it could have leaked, or erupted.”

Liquid nitrogen can silently kill people by sucking out all of the oxygen in the room, according to one of New York’s Bravest.

“The main hazard is it can in a confined space displace oxygen,” said Deputy Chief Russell Regan.

So firefighters in head-to-toe gear rushed up the stairs to check out the tank after transporting it from the classroom to the roof. They didn’t detect a leak, but were still waiting on its manufacturer a little before 4 pm to come haul it away since it’s better to be safe than sorry, said Regan.

“Our hazmat units evaluated the tank. At this time after evaluating the tank there’s no hazard and we’re going to remain on scene until the vendor comes and removes the liquid nitrogen tank,” he said.

Brooklyn Paper reporters were alerted to the situation when they heard the sirens as the Fire Department’s engines roared towards the Downtown campus, formerly known as Brooklyn Polytechnic and located right next door to the Brooklyn Paper Building, and did what they do best: stopped working to look out the window and watch students on the sixth, seventh, and eighth floors — where the tank in question was — pour out onto MetroTech Center.

Of course, this isn’t the first time a potential disaster disrupted students’ at the university — or interrupted work at the BPB. In 2017, a fire kicked everyone out of the MetroTech building as firefighters battled the blaze — and as some students were in the middle of an exam — and a 2012 water leak on the school’s roof, and this distracted the newsroom.

But at least the false alarm didn’t go off in the middle of a test this time, said Thomas.

“Luckily those aren’t going on now,” he said.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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