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Epsom school evacuated after oil spill in boiler room

EPSOM — Epsom Central School evacuated students Friday after maintenance workers detected an oil spill in the boiler room.

According to Principal Patrick Connors the evacuation was done as a precautionary measure, and all the students were transported to the Cornerstone Christian Academy, located down the road, once the smell of oil began to permeate the school.

While firefighters from the Epsom Fire Department cleaned up and contained the spill, school staff and Epsom police officers helped escort the children as they walked nearly a mile to Cornerstone.

“We wanted to be extremely cautious, especially with an odor. We want to get the students far away from that. We have practice protocols for this,” Connors said.

Epsom Chief Stewart Yeaton said the department got the call from the school around 12:30 p.m. and had the situation under control by 2 p.m.

“The school has a plan in place worked out with the police and fire departments, and we were able to evacuate the students in 15 to 18 minutes,” Yeaton said.

Yeaton said that the damage and leak was minimal, and that he expects that the students will be able to go back to school Monday.

Connors said that once the decision was made to evacuate the students, the emergency phone system was used to notify all parents. To make sure parents knew of the situation, Connors and secretaries Wendy Burns and Stephanie Colvin stayed behind after everyone else was evacuated to answer the phones and keep parents informed.

Connors said that the spill occurred while work was being done on one of the boilers, but according to one of the crew members working in the boiler room, the spill could have been much worse if workers weren’t there.

The crew member, who was part of the crew cleaning up the boiler room and working to fix the damage, said that the boiler room set-up and equipment is very old, and that modern boiler rooms have alarms to detect such incidents and sound an alarm.

He added that while the backup system kicked in to take up the excess oil after a safety device failed, the drum designed to hold the excess oil was itself on the verge of breaking as oil was being pumped after the spill was detected and stopped.

The damage to the drum was quite noticeable, as the pressure from having oil pumped into it had caused the top to start to warp under the stress.

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