Hazmat scare prompts business park evacuation
FERNLEY -Hundreds of workers were given a scare Tuesday morning when the threat of a hazardous-waste mishap prompted the evacuation of Fernley’s Nevada Pacific Industrial Park.
A strange vapor emanating from a disposal bin outside of chemical- recycling plant PSC Corp. entered the ventilation systems of neighboring buildings about 8 a.m.
“It smelled like sulfur or an electrical fire or a mix between the two,” said Ken Blackburn, an employee of ARE, which is near the chemical-recycling building.
Fernley and Lyon County authorities, alerted to what they thought might be a chemical fire, advised all workers in nearby buildings to evacuate the park about 8:30 a.m.
The steam or smoke-like vapor was tested by hazmat experts and quickly found to be nontoxic.
At 10:08 a.m., officials from the Fernley Fire Department gave the “all clear.” Within two minutes, Newlands Drive, which leads into the park, was reopened to traffic, and employees who had taken refuge in a nearby parking lot were sent back to work.
PSC recycles solid and liquid acid, alkaline, cyanide and battery waste. The company, also known as 21st Century EMI, retrieves copper, zinc, iron, tin, lead and nickel from the hazardous waste to blend and smelt.
The material that caused the scare was scheduled to be tested for its suitability to be smelted later in the day, said PSC manager Bill Glasgow.
Emergency medical personnel at the scene said nobody had been treated for chemical inhalation or any other malady by the time the park was reopened.
What caused the vapor-producing reaction had not yet been determined, although several government and private officials were on scene to check out the smoldering bin.
Aside from Nevada Department of Environmental Protection officials, firefighters, hazmat experts, medical personnel and officials from various law enforcement agencies responded. PSC also brought in an industrial hygienist to investigate the chemical reaction.
“We’ll be able to eliminate the possibilities one by one,” Glasgow said.
Authorities split the steaming material into thirds and sent samples to three different testing facilities, including the Washoe County Health Department.
The empty bin was still steaming and warm to the touch by 4 p.m., Glasgow said, but appeared to be cooling off.