50-year-old explosive acid found in Salt Lake City home

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SALT LAKE CITY — Authorities were called to a Salt Lake City home Wednesday afternoon after an explosive acid was discovered inside the home.

The Salt Lake City fire department was called to the home of 2074 E. Sunnyside Ave. around 11 a.m. after the homeowner said he found an old bottle of picric acid — a chemical that can become explosive when old and crystallized.

"I didn't know I was going to create this much excitement today," joked Gary Cottam, who had been storing the acid in his house since he was a teenager, unaware that it was a highly volatile substance used primarily in the manufacturing of explosives.

Cottam, 63, said when he was about 14 years old in the mid-1960s, he had tropical fish. He said he went to a pharmacy one day to purchase an ounce of picric acid to use as medicine for his fish.

"I thought the bottle was neater than the fish, so I never did treat 'em. Well, I had it on my knickknack shelf, it's been following me around to all the moves and the apartments and everything. Yesterday I put it on eBay thinking it was an antique bottle I could sell. Well, somebody sent me a message and said it was explosive. So I looked it up online and it was explosive," he said.

Hazmat and the bomb squad were called to the scene to evaluate the danger of the acid. As a precaution, the east side of Sunnyside Ave. and the intersection of Sunnyside Ave. and Foothill Dr. were evacuated, but residents have since been allowed back in their homes, according to spokesman Jasen Asay of the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

"It is a concern because this acid is highly explosive. It's primary use is in explosives," Asay said. "We obviously don't want it to explode so our goal right now is to figure out the best way to remove it and properly dispose it."

The owner of the home removed the acid from his home and put it in the snow, Asay said.

"I never did feel like I'm very lucky. Today I'm reconsidering," Cottam said.


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