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HVAC System Source of Odor that Prompted Oakland Police Headquarters Evacuation

The odor was detected at about 11 a.m.

It appears that a heating ventilation and air conditioning system was the source of a possible gas leak that forced Oakland police headquarters to be evacuated today, police said.
 
An odor similar to a gas leak was detected at the police administration building at 455 7th Street at about 11 a.m. today and an alarm was activated and the building was evacuated while the Oakland Fire Department and Pacific Gas and Electric investigated, police said.
 
However, after a floor-by-floor evaluation it was determined that the odor was not gas. It appeared that the odor originated in the HVAC system, according to police. Building engineers and HVAC repair personnel currently are evaluating the system, according to police.
 
At 1:45 p.m. Oakland fire and PG&E officials said it was safe to temporarily allow people into the building to retrieve belongings but the HVAC system would need to remain off. Employees were allowed back into the building to retrieve items, but the building will remain closed to the public until further notice, police said.
 
The Oakland Police Department's Eastmont substation at 2651 73rd Avenue is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, according to police. Police Lt. Chris Bolton said police emergency and online services remain intact.
 
After the odor was reported, the California Highway Patrol assisted in traffic control in the area and shut down several streets as well as the on- and off-ramps to Interstate Highway 880 at Jackson Street and Broadway. The streets and ramps were reopened by 2 p.m.

—By Bay City News 

Graeme July 12, 2014 at 11:32 AM
This sounds like a classic case of "Dirty Sock Syndrome" which is primarily driven by a build up of biological contamination (aka Biofilm) on the temp exchange coils in the building. It is a sign of poor maintenance and is easily remedied. However, most contractors try to do this with acid or caustic high pH cleaners which do not remove the biofilm and so the issue is likely to re-occur.

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