October 4, 2013

York garbage collectors exposed to toxic fumes

Discarded household chemicals mix in the trash truck’s hopper, causing a visible cloud of gas.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

YORK — Two trash collection employees were treated at a local hospital Friday after a homeowner discarded a number of chemicals that mixed together and caused a toxic cloud.

Firefighters and hazardous materials specialists from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard responded to 21 Carrie Lynn Lane, off Southside Road, at 9 a.m.

The waste management workers had loaded trash bags and 5-gallon buckets of material into the hopper of the large trash truck they were using. When the material mixed, it caused a visible white cloud, said Fire Chief Christopher Ballantine.

The chemicals included muriatic acid, sometimes used as a powerful cleaner; calcium chloride, which can be used as a de-icer; and bromine pool chemicals, he said. The combination led to a release of phosgene gas, he said.

The workers removed the materials from the truck but in so doing were exposed to the fumes, Ballantine said. The two were decontaminated at the scene, then taken to the York Hospital emergency room, where they were treated and released.

The immediate area was evacuated while responders assessed the risk, though most residents were not home

Most of the hazardous materials were consumed by the chemical reaction and firefighters used water to neutralize the remainder, Ballantine said. The residue was collected in specialized containers and removed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The scene was clear by 11:30 a.m., Ballantine said.

He said the town will have a hazardous household products cleanup this fall and residents should wait for that to dispose of household chemicals, in order to reduce the risk to workers and nearby residents.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @Mainehenchman

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