‘Bad hazmat day’ sends 11 to hospitals

Herald Staff

Hazardous materials teams were unusually busy Friday as they responded to three incidents in Snohomish County alone, including train and truck fuel spills and the release of an unidentified noxious odor.

A total of 11 people were taken to area hospitals. No one was seriously injured.

"It would seem to be an incredibly bad hazmat day in Snohomish County," county sheriff’s spokeswoman Jan Jorgensen said.

It began in the early morning hours when a train spilled about 3,500 gallons of diesel fuel along the Edmonds shoreline. Two members of the train’s crew were briefly taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure.

Then, nine people were taken to an Everett hospital after they were exposed to a chemical used to clean medical equipment at an office in the Mill Creek area, and a semitruck overturned in the Marysville area and leaked gasoline.

The chemical exposure occurred at Providence Health Care Center, an outpatient facility in the 12800 block of the Bothell-Everett Highway.

"We were called at about 2:45 p.m. when two technicians working in a room where medical equipment is cleaned noticed a strong smell of chemicals and experienced burning in their eyes," said Leslie Hynes, Snohomish County Fire District 1 spokeswoman.

In addition to the two technicians, seven other people complained of symptoms ranging from mild stomach upset to burning eyes and were transported to the hospital.

Firefighters and hazardous materials technicians ventilated the building and determined air quality was normal, allowing people to go back inside about 4:30 p.m.

While it’s unusual for so many incidents to occur in one day, incidents are increasing, said Jerry Sheehan of the county’s regional hazardous materials team.

"It’s rare, but it’s not unheard of," Sheehan said of the triple hit day.

The hazmat team responds in two ways: as technical advisers for other emergency responders, or with a full-blown response, including protective gear for larger incidents, such as chemical spills or illegal drug labs.

The regional hazmat team averages one team and three technical responses per month, Sheehan said.

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