HAZMAT Leak Evacuates Business

HAZMAT Leak Evacuates Business

(Crystal A. Proxmire, 01/15/2012)

Workers were evacuated from a business on Hilton on Monday, Jan. 9, 2012 when fumes alerted them to a hazardous chemical leak in the adjacent building.  Work at the factory was stopped for the day while the neighbor’s chemical spill was cleaned up, though workers were permitted to go inside to retrieve their belongings once the scene was secure.

According to Fire Chief Kevin Sullivan, 55 gallon drums of flammable chemicals had been improperly stored in the former Fermical building at 1360 Hilton.  Fermical was a pharmaceutical production facility that at one time grew mold for penicillin. “The business has been idle for over a year.  When they were open they did
research on medicines for the government and pharmaceutical companies,” said Fire Marshall Batten.

Marine Pollution Group, a company that responds to Hazardous Materials cleanups, found two chemicals stored in the location, Ethel Acetate and Methyl Ethyl Keytone.  Both need to be handled and stored with care due to their explosive and flammable properties.  They also should not be stored together, Sullivan said, because they can mix and combust.

“The product that leaked was Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK) a popular solvent mainly used by the auto industry to remove paint.  It is highly flammable and has some health risks with a gross exposure,” Fire Marshal Batten said.

“Had no one detected the spill the chemicals would eventually dissipate or drain off into the ground.  In this case, the chemicals were confined to an outdoor storage shed, attached to the building and the clean-up company was able to recover all spilled materials.  All of the drums filled with chemicals were over-packed into a larger plastic drum to prevent any further incidents.  Now the owner needs to have them removed from the site.

“The materials are safely contained and a follow-up inspection of the building and property has been done.  Several violations have been noted and the owner has received notice to correct them. The immediate fire and life safety hazards have been removed.”

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