One day, while engrossed in my music class (MUS217), there was a strange odor drifting through the class. As a gas turbine propulsion engineer for the United States NAVY, I found the odor distinctly familiar, carbon monoxide.
The classroom, approximately 2250 cubic feet, was overwhelmed with the stench from 11A.M. to 12 noon. I was compelled to leave the classroom in search of the mysterious cause.
I explored the building and was able to determine that the odor was localized to a particular wing of the building which harbored a garage on it’s north side.
I overheard individuals, what I believe to be faculty, discussing something about diesel fuel and a backhoe. So strange, so I investigated outside but couldn’t find the machinery anywhere — nor any trace of the odor.
By lunch break, 12 noon – 1 P.M., I had a headache indicative of such inhalation. I proceeded to contact the university by phone. I called the main line and spoke to the receptionist about the experience in what the university refers to as the LIB-SCI building. The receptionist said I needed to contact someone else, and gave me another phone number for the physical plant. When I called the number I re-explained the situation but unfortunately it was the wrong number to a different department on campus. They did, however, give me a third number which did ring through to the correct department. The downside, I was forced to leave a voice mail about the situation, and proceeded to notify my professor via email about the actions I took.
I had determined that the fumes must have distributed themselves through the ventilation system, moving from the attached garage and into the classrooms. Being February, I doubt anyone would want to repair this sort of machinery outside in the cold where the grounds were covered by a fresh layer of Iowa snow.
When I returned, my professor seemed to be discussing the scenario on their cellular phone. I recall one of the students covering their mouth and nose during class, and I’m certain that everyone wondered what the strong odor was.
I did, however, find it strange that no one came to inform the class of what we had been subject to, particularly considering the health risks associated with such conditions.
I finally spotted what I believed to be the culprit days later parked just outside the garage — but I can’t be certain having not actually witnessed the execution of actions which gave rise to the circumstances. I did get a picture of the machine though, it seemed to fit the description of a machine which might have needed maintenance and may have produced such fumes — The Vermeer D16x20A Navigator horizontal directional drilling machine powered by a Cummins diesel engine if I’m not mistaken.
I’m sure it was an innocent and well intentioned error. While my disposition is unsavory in respect to the university’s operations, I find that faculty and students do have a positive and much needed pursuit for peace and harmony. It is the lack of resources and management which likely led to the machine’s dysfunction and subsequent demand for repair. Again, I find that the people are good well intentioned individuals who do their best to create the best experience for students and faculty alike.
After my — and likely others — making a “stink” of the matter, I doubt it will occur again.