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BLUFFDALE -- Eleven people were taken to the hospital Thursday after being exposed to a potentially hazardous chemical at a Camp Williams building. The cause was determined to come from a leak in the building's heating system.
Unified Fire Authority Capt. Clint Smith says crews responded to a call around 9:30 a.m. after the workers complained of burning throats, headaches, runny noses and watery eyes. The victims, both civilian and military personnel, were taken to Riverton Hospital in private vehicles for decontamination and observation.
The hospital has been open about a year and is the closest to Camp Williams. The incident turned into a real-life exercise for the new hospital.
The people were kept outside the emergency room because of their potential exposure to the chemical. Hazmat crews were dispatched to the hospital to set up a decontamination area outside.
"They recognized the need right away to not allow them into their space to prevent possible further contamination of their space or individuals in it," said Smith.
Investigators located a leak in the building's heating system, which had been dripping onto the drywall below. According to Maj. Craig Bello of the 85th Civil Support Team, the combination of the weak acid from the leak and the calcium carbonate contained in the wallboard material combined to create the airborne irritant that caused victims' discomfort.
"Once they were removed from that environment and in the time they were able to sit and wait as we took them through that decontamination process, those symptoms began to slowly resolve themselves," Smith said.
The victims were all checked out by doctors in the hospital after going through the decontamination process and were then released.
The incident turned out to be only precautionary, but hospital officials believe it was a successful test in the event of a real hazmat situation at the base.
"They followed protocol as they should," said hospital spokesman Jess Gomez. "We kept people outside until the decontamination unit came out, got them cleaned up and then allowed them inside to the emergency department for follow-up care. They followed protocol all the way and did a great job."
Smith says the 11 workers had been working in an office-type building that had been under renovation recently.
Utah Guard officials have directed that the leak be repaired and the wallboard replaced before the building is allowed to be reoccupied.
Story compiled with contributions from Marc Giauque and Sam Penrod.