Hazmat crew stops chemical reaction causing acidic vapor cloud in Pittsfield Township
A violent chemical reaction forced three people to evacuate a business in Pittsfield Township early Wednesday morning.
Pittsfield Township firefighters responded to a report of smoke coming from Pacific Industrial Development, 4788 Runway Blvd., at 12:13 a.m. Wednesday. Upon arrival, firefighters quickly found the smoke was actually an acidic vapor caused by the mixture of two chemicals, neodymium oxide and nitric acid.
The Washtenaw County Hazardous Materials Response Team was called and, using chemical protective equipment, cooled the 100-gallon container with about 35 gallons of the solution inside to the point where the reaction stopped.
One of the three employees at the business, which makes specialty chemicals and nanomaterials used in pollution and emissions-control devices, was exposed to the vapor but was wearing chemical protective clothing and a respirator, escaping injury, firefighters said in a press release.
There will be no lasting effects to the environment or area around the building, Pittsfield Township Fire Chief Sean Gleason said Wednesday morning.
Workers were making the solution as a part of a research project, said Bill Germond, vice president of PIDC. The amount of nitric acid released was very small, even though it appeared along with a large cloud of steam, he said.
Researchers had previously made a small amount of the solution in laboratories, but when it was made in the larger tank, the reaction was bigger than expected, Germond said. It was the first time the company has needed the hazmat team’s assistance with a reaction.
“The amount of acid released would be way below any recordable levels,” he said. “It looks really big because of the steam and moisture going up, but it was not a significant amount of nitric acid.”