Hazardous chemicals overflowed from a mixing tank at UR’s Central Utilities Plant on 390 Elmwood Ave. on the evening of Monday, Sept. 27.
Rochester fire crews were called to campus to manage the chlorine dioxide release in the plant’s basement.
Sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide were undergoing a mixing reaction in a 500-gallon tank to create chlorine dioxide, which serves as an anti-bacterial agent, when the spill occurred.
Chlorine dioxide, used as a disinfectant for UR’s closed circuit cooling systems, is classified as a strong corrosive agent, and excessive exposure can prove fatal.
Conflicting reports were given regarding injuries from the spill.
The Wall Street Journal and the Democrat and Chronicle report that the incident sent a firefighter to Highland Hospital for exertion and two UR employees to Strong Memorial Hospital for hypertension.
Director of Utilities and Energy Management Stephen Mischissin countered this, saying that no University employees were injured as a result of the spill.
Prior to exiting the building, employees attempted to stop the chemical process that was creating the chlorine dioxide but were unsuccessful.
After being evacuated, the building was hosed by firefighters as a means of diluting the chemicals and flushing them into floor drains.
UR facilities personnel claim the spill was small and easily diluted with the water.
Two firefighters and one employee also returned to the building with protective gear to stop the process and overflow.
Staff members were allowed to re-enter the building in the early hours of Tuesday morning after the Fire Department confirmed that there were no longer any environmental threats.
According to a University spokeswoman, there was no disruption to students on the River Campus or at the UR Medical Center.
Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance and CFO Ronald Paprocki dubs the incident as a minor event.
“It was caused by an equipment failure in the utilities plant that has been corrected,” he said. “This type of occurrence is very unusual. Our utilities plant is run by a highly professional group of individuals.”
Mischissin agrees with Paprocki with this description of the nature of the spill.
“We have not had a spill from this system in the past,” he said. “The spill was completely handled Monday evening, and there are no risks of contamination or exposure. The University has dedicated staff to respond to chemical spills. This event did not require a clean-up as the weak chlorine solution was diluted and flushed to the sanitary sewer.”
Ostrander is a member of the class of 2013.