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Haz-Mat Called to Wal-Mart

By: Lindsey Ward Email
By: Lindsey Ward Email

December 17, 2006

“It doesn't have to specifically be a chemical,” explained Senior Fire Fighter Robert Jennette.

From trash to large quantities of milk, in the wrong situation these everyday items could become hazardous.

“Hazardous material is anything that could harm the environment or the people, cause serious illness, injury, or even death,” said Jennette.

Initial tests found there was no life threatening materials in the building, but the investigation continues to find out why seven Wal-mart employees suffered symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, even difficulty breathing.

“It could have been something as simple as one person using bleach to clean something and then floor waxer came behind him and put Lysol down and that just caused some type of reaction,” Jennette said.

When crews arrived on the scene they began evacuating the building, the first step in a possible hazardous material situation.

From there crews locate what they call the hot zone. Which is where the symptoms began or material was spilled. Anyone who came in contact with the hot zone is then decontaminated.

“We just spray them with a lot of water to kind of remove any contamination from the outside,” said Jennette.

Once crews are geared up to enter the hot-zone, they test the air using special devices to find out what gases or odors are floating around. After learning what materials they're dealing with clean-up begins.

“Usually if we just ventilate, if it's inside we'll just push it out into the atmosphere, depending on what it is,” Jennette said describing the clean-up process.

The sick employees were taken to Uva Medical Center with mild to moderate symptoms. Wal-mart was up and running by regular business hours.


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