, Newburyport, MA

October 15, 2010

Firm reopens after chemical accident

By Dave Rogers
Staff writer

AMESBURY — An Oakland Street industrial business reopened for business Monday but only on a limited basis, four days after a chemical accident released toxic gas into the building.

Durasol Drug and Chemical Co., which manufactures gum erasers, cleaning solutions, denture adhesives and other related products, will be able to ship items it has already made but won't be allowed to manufacture anything else until receiving clearance from roughly half a dozen local, state and federal agencies, according to Amesbury fire Chief Jonathan Brickett.

A Durasol representative yesterday acknowledged the business was open but not at full capacity. She declined to comment further.

Brickett said he has ordered Durasol owners to hire a fire protection engineer to assess and analyze the building's life safety devices, including sprinklers. Once the engineer has certified the devices are working, the company will have met local requirements to resume full operation. Should the company fail to meet local requirements, it will be subject to fine by the city.

But Brickett said the company will also have to meet requirements specified by the Department of Environmental Protection, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Public Health and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Representatives from those agencies and local officials have been visiting Durasol daily, having spent a total of 16 or 17 hours collectively in the building, according to Brickett.

Brickett said Durasol owners have been "very cooperative" since the accident.

Last Thursday morning, a defective sprinkler system broke inside the building, sending water into an open container of sulfur monocholride, a dry form of sulfuric acid that reacts violently when combined with water.

Sulfur monocholride can cause labored breathing, pain, sore throat and burning sensations.

The gas led to the evacuation of the building and forced firefighters to close two side streets as a state hazmat crew first inspected the building, then removed the gas. No injuries were reported, and none of the nearby buildings had to be evacuated. Durasol is located in the heart of an industrial section of the city about a quarter-mile east from downtown Amesbury.

Last week's accident was the second time in roughly a year that Durasol has been involved with an industrial accident. A little more than a year ago, a large quantity of peroxide spilled in a storage area, prompting another response.