Photo: 200116-news-keenegasincident Hotel had carbon monoxide from utility malfunction

The downtown hotel was found to have carbon monoxide in its boiler room after Liberty Utilities sent out the wrong mix of gas and air to its customers Wednesday morning. The situation has since been corrected and there were no reported health problems.

KEENE — The Marriott hotel on Railroad Street in Keene was found to have carbon monoxide in the boiler room Wednesday morning as fire crews rushed through the city checking on natural gas customers.

Keene Fire Chief Mark Howard said Liberty Utilities, which supplies about 1,300 customers in the city with natural gas, reported a problem with its gas delivery Wednesday morning.

The utility realized it was sending out the wrong mixture of gas to air to appliances such as boilers, clothes dryers, and stoves, with too much natural gas being sent out into the supply line. That type of mix could lead to carbon monoxide leaking into homes and businesses, Howard said.

“What happens when you have that higher level of gas delivered to appliances, the flame does not burn correctly,” Howard said.

The flames will not burn as cleanly, and do not burn off all the gas in the mix, he said. This “dirty” flame will result in carbon monoxide leaking from the appliance. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, and people would not know if the deadly gas was filling their home or business without a carbon monoxide detector, he said. Though the flame burning the higher gas mixture would be yellow, most people don’t check their appliance pilot lights, he said.

“Someone’s not looking at the flame in their hot water heater, they wouldn’t know that,” he said.

Emily Burnett, a Liberty Utilities representative, said Wednesday the company is still investigating the cause of the incident, though it appears to have been a mechanical failure with the mixing equipment.

“It was a minor issue,” she said.

Fire crews along with Liberty Utilities employees rushed Wednesday morning to check in on a random sample of about 25 Liberty customers to make sure the gas was not leaking out, and to be sure there was not a widespread problem, Howard said.

Though most of the homes and businesses checked were clear, a home on Pearl Street and the downtown Marriott hotel both had detectable levels of the gas, he said.

In both cases, the homeowner and the hotel staff were first alerted by their carbon monoxide detectors, Howard said. The Pearl Street residents were evacuated from their home and their home was ventilated, Howard said. The gas in the hotel boiler room did not seep out to any other part of the hotel, he said, and fire crews were able to ventilate the room.

Howard said Liberty was able to correct its problem by 9 a.m., and no further alarms were reported. Since carbon monoxide is generally undetectable to human senses, people need to get a detector in their homes and businesses, the fire chief said.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020
Tuesday, January 28, 2020