The Miami Report

News and Public Information Office
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Miami University
Oxford, Ohio 45056
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Danger averted in chemical spill

Normal activity resumed about five hours after a bottle of nitric acid fell in a Hughes Hall laboratory Tuesday afternoon, June 29.

A professor reached for a box on a shelf when a bottle fell through the corroded box bottom and onto the floor, said Cathryn House, director of public safety. Contents of the bottle, 250 milliliters of nitric acid, reacted with the linoleum to cause strong fumes.

Another glass bottle also fell. It wasn’t immediately known if the potassium cyanide in it leaked through a crack or was contained in the bottle.

"Had the two materials interacted, there would have been a cloud of cyanide gas," explained Oxford Fire Chief Leonard Endress.

The professor contacted Miami’s director of environmental health and safety, who in turn called the Oxford fire department. The building was evacuated and the Butler County Hazardous Materials Co-op, including hazardous materials units from the Hamilton and Middletown fire departments, was called to contain the substances and to decontaminate the site.

Haz-mat technicians found the second bottle (with potassium cyanide) intact. No one was injured in the incident.

"The coordination among response teams was very good," said House.

Endress agreed. "There was excellent cooperation throughout the event."

Date Published: 07/15/1999
Volume: 19   Number: 2


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