Hazmat unit finds no damage, chemical spill at UNB
Chemical-filled freezer malfunction caused evacuation
A hazardous materials team investigating an overnight freezer malfunction in a chemical laboratory at the University of New Brunswick's Fredericton campus has not found any signs of damage or chemical spills.
Fire officials say sometime overnight a freezer, which contained chemicals, in Toole Hall at UNB broke down, switching from cooling to heating. The university’s four main undergraduate chemistry laboratories are located in the building, which was evacuated.
There was a concern about the reaction of the chemicals once they began to heat up following the freezer malfunction.
Although the freezer was repaired Thursday afternoon, the hazmat team remained on scene to make sure none of the chemicals had destabilized due to the change in temperature.
No one was injured.
Cameron Dunn, a fire inspector, said earlier in the day that the situation was considered a medium risk.
"We're treating it as a higher type of risk. But what we're looking at is maybe going further along to make sure everyone's safe when we get in there," he said.
A lab technician was the first to raise the alarm when he noticed a strange smell in the hallway.
"The [chemicals] are the kind of thing that you handle with great care and in the hands of an expert, they're harmless. But of course, under these circumstances, it's a different story," said Jack Passmore, UNB professor emeritus.
Passmore's lab has been in this building for more than 40 years. He's now retired and the lab is in the process of being dismantled, but he said this isn't how he saw his university career ending.
"It's pretty dramatic … It's the kind of drama you can do without, of course, when you're looking for a quiet life in retirement," he said.
UNB said all protocols for the lab were followed, and it's pleased with the evacuation of the building. It will now conduct an internal review to determine what happened.
The investigation continues.