Hardin Hall

A chemical odor at Hardin Hall on University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus caused the building to be evacuated this afternoon.

Battalion Chief Jim Bopp of Lincoln Fire and Rescue said the “rotten egg” or hydrogen sulfide smell was likely caused by a buildup of the gas in a 2nd-floor bathroom.

“If it stays dry too long and you don’t use it very often… you get that gas from the city sewers,” he said.

Hydrogen sulfide can be dangerous in large quantities, but the amount in the bathroom was not considered harmful.

A hazmat response was required because of the potential danger of the gas. When firefighters tested the building with pH paper, one of the strips slightly changed color, Bopp said, which made determining the safety of the building a longer process.

The fire department received notice of the odor at 3:14 p.m. and the building was evacuated about 3:20 p.m. People could re-enter the building after it was determined safe at about 5:40 p.m.

Michael Sindelar, a graduate agronomy student, said he was outside collecting data for his statistics class when he saw the first fire truck arrive.

He, his professor and several other students waited more than two hours to get back inside to grab their things.

“At the time they were like, ‘Are we going to clear the building?’ or ‘Are we not going to clear the building?’ so there was a chance (the firefighters) showed up for nothing,” he said.

Bopp said precautions were taken since Hardin Hall contains science labs.

“Did some experiment go wrong? Did someone spill something? We wanted to rule everything out, especially in a building like this,” Bopp said.