College chemical spill drama

By Juliette MaxamA MAJOR emergency services operation swung into action following a chemical spill in a college science laboratory.Three fire engines and an ambulance were sent to Colchester Sixth Form College yesterday lunchtime after a laboratory technician reported a chemical spill from a jar that had been broken in transit.

By Juliette Maxam

A MAJOR emergency services operation swung into action following a chemical spill in a college science laboratory.

Three fire engines and an ambulance were sent to Colchester Sixth Form College yesterday lunchtime after a laboratory technician reported a chemical spill from a jar that had been broken in transit.

At first it was thought the spilt chemical was radioactive strontium chloride, but it turned out to be tinned chloride, which becomes hydrogen chloride on contact with water.


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The incident happened in a chemistry preparation area on the second floor of the North Hill college.

Some of the chloride had reacted with water on the floor, giving off gases that were causing breathing problems for the laboratory technician, a woman aged in her 20s, who needed treatment from paramedics.

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Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus and neoprene gloves cleared up the spill, most of which had turned into crystals.

Station Officer Russell Cottiss, of Colchester Fire Station, said the whole of the second floor of the college had had to be evacuated during the clear-up operation.

“It was a small chemical spillage. We washed it down a special water course in the lab,” he added.

An Essex Ambulance Service spokesman said the woman laboratory technician had been treated by paramedics, but had refused hospital treatment.

He added ambulance staff had consulted the Chemical Hazards and Poisons Bureau, National Radiological Board and Essex Health Protection Unit to find out how to deal with the situation.

Phil Brighty, a spokesman for the sixth-form college, said the laboratory technician had remained at work for the rest of the day.

“The spill was dealt with pretty quickly. The area was evacuated. The fire brigade arrived in three minutes. There was no need for a whole building evacuation,” he added.

juliette.maxam@eadt.co.uk

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