Chemical spill closes university lab, floor

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A chemical spill temporarily closed a DePauw University laboratory and sent an employee to the hospital Monday.

The accident occurred around 2 p.m. in a third-floor chemistry lab of the Percy L. Julian Science and Mathematics Center, university spokesman Ken Owen told the BannerGraphic.

He said chemistry Professor David Harvey was working with the chemical hydrochloric acid (HCL) when he dropped a small amount of it on the floor.

Harvey was taken to the hospital as a precaution, but Owen said he did not think he was seriously hurt.

Fortunately there were no students in the lab at the time, however, DePauw Public Safety officers cordoned off the area while Greencastle firefighters cleaned up the spill.

"That vapor is pretty harsh," Fire Chief Bill Newgent said.

The potential health risks of contacting HCL include inhaling toxic vapors and irritations of the eyes and skin if contacted by the chemical. The gases released by the chemical are also flammable.

"It was a small spill," Owen said.

Newgent estimated the amount of HCL at less than a half gallon. Firefighters had to remove the portion of the carpet where the chemical spilled as well as a section of the drywall that the chemical contacted.

DePauw professors Bryan Hanson and David Roberts were in the lab when the accident occurred and reported it to the proper authorities.

"They were able to mitigate the situation," Owen said.

DePauw Public Safety officers closed the third floor of the science center during the clean-up and it reopened Tuesday.

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