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Crews destroy final barrels of compromised chemical

By Pat Reavy | Posted - Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 9:44am


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SALT LAKE CITY — A volatile, two-day Hazmat situation involving a potentially explosive chemical at a Salt Lake warehouse has finally ended.

Early Tuesday morning crews detonated the final set of compromised barrels containing the chemical Trigonox.

Trigonox started a small fire inside Quality Distribution, located at 421 N. John Glenn Road, on Sunday when the building's air conditioning unit failed. That's when fire investigators discovered other barrels leaking.

At 68 degrees Trigonox becomes unstable, and at 95 degrees it self heats, leading to a potentially explosive situation. Weather temperatures exceeding 100 degrees over the past several days exacerbated the situation.

"The chemical was starting to decompose and that was causing the problem, including the original fire," said Jasen Asay of the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

"The air conditioning was not functioning correctly inside the building, (which) was frankly at too hot of an environment," he added.

Agencies from across the Wasatch Front devised a plan to dig several trenches at the warehouse, move the barrels into them and then detonate the chemicals.

Monday morning, about 40 drums of the chemical that were determined to be over 77 degrees and unstable were burned in a trench. The plan was to move the remaining barrels into refrigerated trailers outside the warehouse and ship them back to the manufacturer.

By Monday afternoon, however, the air conditioning in one of the trailers had also failed. Rather than risk the safety of firefighters by having them go in and move the barrels again, the decision was made to burn the trailer with the 48 barrels inside. That happened about 8:15 p.m. Monday.

It took three controlled burns &#8212 the last finishing just before 1 a.m. Tuesday &#8212 to complete the job. A total of about 280 containers were destroyed.

"We've been able to dispose of the containers in a safe way by burning them," Asay said. "We've also been able to get seven pallets of the containers into a refrigerated trailer."

Asay said the pallets, each holding more than 40 uncompromised containers of the chemical, will be shipped back to the manufacturer.

"A lot of people are glad to be done with this, not only the people from Salt Lake City but all the fire agencies that helped out," Asay said.

He said a 2,000-foot evacuation radius should be lifted Tuesday morning and employees of the nearly dozen businesses evacuated would be allowed to return to work.

Representatives from Quality Distribution were at the scene Sunday night and Monday morning but declined to speak to the media. The company's website says it has been in business in Utah for 18 years.

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