FARGO - Inspectors with the Fargo Fire Department have found significant fire code violations involving improper storage of hazardous chemicals at Ladd Hall and Dunbar Hall on the North Dakota State University campus.
"Many of these violations are the result of careless and improper storage of hazardous materials. These violations shall be corrected immediately," Fire Marshal Ryan Erickson wrote in a letter dated Friday, June 9, to NDSU's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
Erickson's letter noted recurring serious problems that have been cited in earlier inspections. Outdated Dunbar Hall has been singled out as a public safety concern on the NDSU campus in recent years.
"Many of the violations noted on the 2017 fire inspections have been reported for many years," the fire marshal wrote. "The storage and use of hazardous materials has been an ongoing issue at these facilities."
Sadie Rudolph, an NDSU spokeswoman, said Monday, June 12, that administrators are working to resolve the problems identified in the inspections.
"NDSU officials are working with city of Fargo fire officials to address concerns, and plan to be in compliance in time for the follow-up inspection," Rudolph said in a statement. NDSU did not grant an interview.
Among the violations cited, fire inspectors found highly combustible chemicals stored in seven rooms in Dunbar Hall and two in Ladd Hall that were not equipped with sprinklers. The chemicals were pyrophoric liquids, which have the potential to spontaneously ignite at temperatures of 130 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, and are often corrosive.
Inspectors also found chemicals that were stored too close to a heating system and a lack of adequate fire extinguishers in both buildings.
Additionally, a required hazardous materials management plan and hazardous materials inventory statement were to be available, but weren't, inspectors found.
In an interview Monday, Erickson said fire officials have met with NDSU officials to correct the problems, identified in inspections performed May 24 and 25, and to improve the university's plan for managing hazardous chemicals.
"We have violations probably every year out there, but we're going to get them resolved," Erickson said.
Ladd and Dunbar halls sit side-by-side along Albrecht Boulevard in the heart of the NDSU campus. Both buildings are used to teach chemistry and biochemistry.
Dunbar Hall, built in 1964, has been on a priority list for replacement for several years, but lawmakers have not appropriated money for a replacement, estimated a few years ago to cost $45.9 million.
NDSU President Dean Bresciani has described Dunbar, which houses important research programs, as "literally dangerous."
Construction on Ladd Hall began in 1910, after the original chemistry building was destroyed in an explosion and fire.
Because both Ladd and Dunbar halls are old, they are not up to current standards and therefore are subject to more restrictions, Erickson said. For example, the lack of sprinklers restricts the quantity of hazardous chemicals that can be stored.