Four UC Merced custodians were taken to Mercy Medical Center, checked and released Monday night after a chemical spill in one of the buildings at the university, officials said.
The spill happened at the penthouse of the science and engineering building, which is right above the third floor and houses machinery that help operate the building, said Kevin Creed, director of environmental health and safety. The spill leaked to a lab on the third floor.
The accident involved from 10 to 15 gallons of water treatment chemicals used to prevent mineral build-up in pipes, Creed said. The chemicals aren't flammable and are similar to strong bleach.
The cause of the spill is still unknown, said Brenda Ortiz, a spokeswoman at UC Merced. They are "still looking into that to figure out what happened and how the chemical got on the floor," she said.
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Two custodians discovered the spill on the third-floor at around 7 p.m., noticed that it was an unusual material and reported it, Creed said. "They did exactly as they were supposed to," he added.
At first, only two custodians were decontaminated and taken to the hospital by ambulance, Creed said. Then two other custodians in the vicinity of the spill also were decontaminated and taken to the hospital. A university planner was also on scene but didn't require medical attention.
No one was injured, but Creed said some of the chemical's health effects could be delayed.
About two dozen people were evacuated from the building. The facility was closed for a few hours as emergency personnel responded to stabilize the spill.
No classes were in session when the building was evacuated, but some researchers and graduate students were in the building.
The building reopened at around 1 a.m., Ortiz said.
The agencies that responded to the chemical spill included Cal Fire's hazmat team and several fire units, as well as Riggs Ambulance and the UC Merced Police Department.
Creed said a local firm, Advanced Chemical Transport, took care of the cleanup Tuesday.
University personnel and representatives from ChemTreat Inc., which supplies the chemical to the university, will now work to identify what caused the spill, and how to prevent it from happening again.
This was the first time a chemical spill happened at the university. Creed said that officials went through a training exercise late last month which simulated just such a chemical spill, and that it helped them to better handle the situation.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 388-6507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.