Monday, October 8, 2018

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Disaster averted at Household Hazardous Waste Cleanup Day

Westchester Bomb Squad safely disposed of the old explosives

CARMEL – Putnam County’s semi-annual Household Hazardous Waste Cleanup Days are successful events with tons of potentially dangerous substances posing health risks to man and pets alike safely removed.

Nearly 300 residents had signed up to dispose of their household cleaners, pesticides, herbicides, oil based paint and automotive solvents at Saturday’s Clean-up Day at the Bureau of Emergency Services Operating and Training Center in Carmel.

However, 90 minutes into the collection process, a retired chemist from Brewster entered the disposal area and advised a technician that his vehicle contained 16 bottles of crystallized picric acid. The chemical had been stored in his basement for years and the local resident decided to rid his home of the acid when he heard about the clean-up day.

Picric acid is a highly explosive nitrated organic compound originally used in the late 19th century for detonating artillery.

Modern safety precautions recommend storing picric acid wet since dry picric acid is sensitive to shock and friction. Laboratories store the acid in bottles under a layer of water.

Realizing the potential danger of the compound and the calamity that could occur should it explode, organizers of the clean-up day notified the Putnam 9-1-1 Center, which in turn, issued a red alert summoning emergency responders.

The Carmel Fire Department rushed to the scene. Mutual aid assistance was summoned from the Lake Carmel FD. The Carmel Volunteer Ambulance Corps also responded as did members of the Sheriff’s Department, Carmel Police, Putnam Hazardous Materials Team, Commissioner of Emergency Services Ken Clair, Assistant Commissioner Robert Lipton and the Westchester County Bomb Squad.

Members of the company collecting the unwanted waste were ordered to suspend operation and dozens of residents were turned away. The area surrounding the vehicle containing the acid was cordoned off as members of the Haz-Mat team inspected the salts.

When bomb squad members arrived from Hawthorne, the acid was gingerly transported to a remote area of the bureau’s parking lot where it was placed in the rear of a large drum and detonated.

It wasn’t until 3 p.m. that emergency responders left the scene, more than four hours after being summoned.

No injuries were reported.


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