By Mike Caputo
Eighteen members of the Phi Kappa Tau (PKT) fraternity house were forced to evacuate from their house late Saturday night after Facilities and Township fire officials determined that there was a gas leak in the vicinity, according to a report from Public Safety.
On Saturday, Feb. 24, just before 10 p.m., Public Safety was contacted after fraternity members noticed a smell of natural gas in the house. After a Facilities technician observed a high meter reading in the Phi Tau boiler room, the Lawrence Township Fire Department was called and the building was evacuated immediately, the report indicated.
“Our first concern is the safety of our students and that we can have them in a secure place, which is why we evacuated them from the building and called the fire department,” said Dean of Students Anthony Campbell.
Members were evacuated for about six hours.
PKT President Mike Torney said the fraternity members were calm and confident that the situation would be resolved without damage to the house or danger to its inhabitants.
“I don’t think the fear of anything happening to the house was relevant because we had the proper people [addressing the situation],” said Torney. “We did not feel we were in danger.”
Officials did a sweep of the surrounding buildings, but did not find any other gas leaks. Members of the fraternity were instructed to seek friends for sleeping arrangements, but beds were offered for those who could not find a place to stay.
All members were able to make alternative arrangements, said Torney.
According to the report, PSE&G, the state gas and electric utility supplier, was summoned to the scene. Technicians concurred that since natural gas was entering through some of the electrical outlets, a pipe was broken somewhere along the line. Assistant Vice President of Facilities Phil Voorhees located the broken gas pipe somewhere in the grassy area between Phi Tau and Facilities, said Campbell.
According to Campbell, PSE&G dug into the ground and fixed the leak. The situation was cleared overnight and members were allowed back in the house at about 4:30 a.m.
– Jeff Frankel contributed to this report