Aurora College shuts YK campus after propylene glycol spill

Aurora College's Yellowknife campus
Aurora College's Yellowknife campus. Supplied by MyTrueNorthNow.com staff.
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Aurora College’s main Yellowknife campus closed for much of Wednesday after a chemical spill.

The college says a ‘significant’ leak of propylene glycol – an antifreeze used in the building’s boiler system – took place on Tuesday at around 5pm, when a valve exploded.

Aurora College closed the campus for the duration of Wednesday afternoon, inviting staff and students to head home.

In a statement, the college said the spill did “not pose an immediate health risk” and the closure was a precautionary measure – but the message advised students and staff to “avoid direct contact with the liquid”.

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The college hopes to reopen its campus as normal on Thursday. Only the main North Slave campus is affected.

“The leak came from the fourth floor right down to the first floor. We have had cleaning people in since last night, cleaning the carpets and the floor,” Jane Arychuk, president of Aurora College, told Moose FM.

“We did choose to shut down this afternoon as a precautionary measure. However, there is not a health issue unless a person has environmental sensitivity or respiratory illnesses.”

A smell inside the campus building, caused by escaped propylene glycol burning off in the boiler system, led staff to close the campus for the day.

The college said the smell was ‘non-hazardous’ but was being compounded by a problem with an air handling system, preventing fresh air from entering.

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In full: Aurora College statement on chemical spill

Find out more: What is propylene glycol?

An inspection by the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission took place on Wednesday morning. The college says the results of that inspection will determine, in part, whether the campus can safely reopen.

“As soon as we have something, we will post something on our Facebook site and our college website,” said Arychuk.

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The college’s statement added: “Plans are being developed to immediately relocate staff from any areas that need to be remediated.

“Those plans will be communicated with affected staff as soon as possible. Should any classrooms need to be relocated, that will be communicated as soon as possible as well.

“Students who left the building this morning should ensure their instructor is aware of their actions. Students will not be penalized for leaving the campus prior to the closure if they experienced ill effects or were concerned for their safety.”

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