Written by Carol Frank Friday, 10 February 2012 00:00
Spokesperson Kim Riddle from the U.S. Department of Transportation has provided the Record with the following update of the situation at the USMMA:
A broken air duct in the Barry Hall ventilation system permitted exhaust and fumes from the gas-fired hot water heating system to be spread through the building, instead of being expelled from the chimney as designed. The exhaust and fumes included a combination of soot, carbon monoxide, and unburned natural gas. The noxious odor of the natural gas was detected by the midshipmen and prompted them to evacuate. The entire ventilation system must be cleaned of soot before being returned to normal operation.
The negative air pressure situation that the broken duct created in the mechanical room caused the hot water heating system to operate improperly and severely damage itself. The hot water heating system must be replaced. Engineers are working on a modern replacement system.
There is heat in Barry Hall, but the heating system will not be operating at full capacity until the broken duct is repaired, and the building’s entire ventilation system, including extensive ductwork which runs to each individual room, is cleaned. Until that time, the main air handler, which distributes hot air from the main heating component in the basement to all of the rooms in the building, will remain off.
Duct cleaning in Barry Hall is complete. Workers are currently repairing the failed flexible coupling in the mechanical room. Concurrently, work is also underway to open the louvers behind each secondary heating unit in the sleeping rooms and common spaces in Barry Hall, to connect them to the central ventilation system. Once all work is complete, the central ventilation fan will be restarted, to fully restore the heating system. Full capacity should be restored by the end of this week.
As of Jan. 13 however, the secondary heating unit in each room had been cleaned and restored to operation, thus supplying some heat to each room. These units are designed to provide additional heating to the warm air supplied by the main air handler, and not to independently heat the air in the individual rooms. These systems can maintain a comfortable temperature in each room of 65-68 degrees. Midshipmen have been offered the opportunity to temporarily move to another barracks, if his/her room is too cold.
Hot water service in Barry and Jones Halls has been limited since the incident. An initial temporary solution was to integrate Barry/Jones into the hot water system that services Cleveland and Rogers Halls, but the two additional buildings exceeded the system’s designed capability. Midshipmen were also using the showers in O’Hara Hall (gym) and the other barracks as a temporary measure.
The Academy has now implemented a better temporary solution – a large portable hot water heating system. This unit is expected to operate for a few weeks while the permanent system is being replaced.
CO detectors have been installed in every midshipman room in all six barracks buildings. Detectors have also been installed in common spaces where midshipmen gather such as wardrooms and basement club spaces.