2017-05-17 / News

Chemical spill at bank closed branch for hours

by Kate Evans

The main branch of CNB Bank in Berkeley Springs was evacuated on the morning of Tuesday, May 9 due to response for a chemical reaction in the building.

A spilled chemical in a storage room came into contact with sidewalk ice melt, which filled the two-story bank with a strong chemical odor, said responders. Volunteer firefighters, emergency medical personnel and Washington County’s HazMat team from Hagerstown responded to the incident.

Seven people in the building on South Washington Street complained of headaches, nausea and/or dizziness and two people were checked on the scene by Morgan County Emergency Medical Services, said Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company Sergeant Zachary Sipe. No one was transported to the hospital.

The emergency call regarding an unknown chemical odor came in to Morgan County 911 Dispatch on May 9 at 9:35 a.m. said Sarah Hogbin, Morgan County 911 public information officer.

Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company firefighters responded to the scene at 9:37 a.m. and found concrete sealer spilled in a storage room.

Mix created odor

Around four gallons of the liquid concrete sealer had leaked from a bucket and spread across the storage room floor coming into contact with ice melt, which was dry, said Sipe.

Sipe said there was a strong odor in the storage room which had made its way into the bank. The storage room is part of the main CNB building but isn’t directly connected to the client area.

Bank employees opened windows which had reduced the chemical odor to a moderate level by the time he got inside the bank. Sipe said he requested that the bank be evacuated at 9:45 a.m. and asked for the hazardous material team to respond.

Diane Petersen, CNB Vice President/Human Resources, said that the storage room that held the chemicals was only accessible from outside the building and that the chemicals weren’t stored inside the bank itself.

The HazMat team cleaned up all the spilled material, bagged it and removed it from the bank, she said. Crews also blew all of the chemical odor out of the building with high powered fans.

Sipe said the building was turned back over to the bank management at noon. They told employees to go to lunch and to come back at 1 p.m. to reopen.

Responding units

Units from Berkeley Springs and Great Cacapon Volunteer Fire Companies along with the Washington County HazMat Team, Washington County Unit 1803, Morgan County Emergency Medical Services, Morgan County Office of Emergency Services and FEMA Director Dick Myers and the Town of Bath Police Department responded to the chemical odor investigation.

Petersen said a number of people smelled the odor but once they got outside of the building they were fine. Most complained of just headaches. CNB sent one employee that was the most affected to the doctor, who gave them a clean bill of health, she said.

Cautions about chemicals

Sgt. Sipe cautioned people not to store chemicals too closely together in their homes and businesses.

“If you notice some chemicals have spilled causing a reaction and the reaction affects your health, don’t hesitate to call 911 to have the fire department investigate,” Sipe urged.

The Centers for Disease Control and other websites offered guidelines for safe chemical storage.

Don’t store chemicals in or near food or food preparation areas. Keep chemicals in their originally stored containers and make sure they’re closed and labeled properly. Keep liquids in unbreakable or doublepackaged containers.

Check storage areas for leaking or deteriorating containers, spilled chemicals and temperature extremes. Store like chemicals together and away from other chemicals that could cause a reaction if mixed. Pitch unused or expired chemicals.

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