Updated 4:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 13

FALMOUTH – Crews cleaned up muriatic acid that had been improperly dumped into a recycling container, making two Falmouth Public Works employees slightly ill today.

Two gallon-sized containers of the acid, which is often used to clean masonry, had been illegally dumped into the recycling container behind the West Falmouth Shopping Center, said Doug Patey, assistant chief of Falmouth Fire and EMS.

Patey said the two public works employees encountered the bubbling, yellow-colored acid, which had leaked from the recycling trailer, when they went to clean up the area around 10:30 a.m. today.

Both breathed in fumes from the acid and they felt a stinging sensation in their lungs, Patey said. They were sent to Maine Medical Center as a precaution, evaluated and released, he said.

Patey said the concentration of the liquid was 31 percent acid, which is considered fairly high. After crews detemined what the substance was, they neutralized the acid with baking soda and cleaned it up. The acid/baking soda mixture, plus the containers that were improperly put in the recyling trailer, were put into a drum that was taken away by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Patey said.

The contents of the recycling trailer were taken to ecomaine, the regional waste facility, and burned, Patey said.

Patey said whoever dumped the acid would likely be liable for clean up costs and could be fined. He said authorities consider improperly dumped materials a serious issue.

“It’s too bad they endangered people by illegally disposing this,” he said. “What if some kid came in contact with it while throwing out some recyclables for mom?”

In addition to the danger posed by breathing the fumes, Patey said, the acid would likely burn someone’s skin if they came in contact with it.

12:17 p.m.

FALMOUTH — Fire and hazardous materials teams are dealing with a spill of an unknown substance in Falmouth that sickened two public works workers.

Falmouth police said they were called this morning after the two workers went to retrieve a “silver bullet” recycling container behind the West Falmouth Shopping Center and discovered a liquid chemical inside the container and just outside of it.

The two felt a “stinging in their throat” after they were exposed to the substance, a police spokesman said.

The two were examined by paramedics at the scene and then taken to Maine Medical Center, but neither was seriously injured, police said.

Crews have closed off some access roads to the rear of the shopping center, where the container is located, but have not shut the center or evacuated nearby buildings. They are currently waiting for officlals from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to arrive to help identify the substance and determine how best to clean it up.