N M Tech Buildings Evacuated as Result of Chemical Spill, March 22, 2005

by George Zamora

SOCORRO, March 21, 2005 – Seven campus buildings at New Mexico Tech were evacuated Monday evening, March 21, as a result of an accidental chemical spill inside of the research university’s Jones Hall.

The New Mexico Tech Campus Police received a call at about 5:24 p.m. alerting them to a potentially hazardous spill of the liquid element bromine inside one of the university’s chemistry laboratories. A hazardous materials response team from the Socorro Fire Department responded to the situation shortly thereafter.

With the help of the Socorro Police Department, New Mexico Tech Campus Police then evacuated campus buildings within a 1,000-foot perimeter as a precaution since bromine is considered a volatile substance that is capable of changing to gaseous form at room temperatures. Bromine typically has a strong noxious odor, resembling chlorine, and can irritate the nose, throat, and eyes of people who are exposed to it.

The two New Mexico Tech students who were exposed to the bromine spill inside the chemistry lab left the area immediately after, and reported to campus police that they were not feeling any ill effects as result of their short exposure.

About three hours after the bromine spill occurred, New Mexico Tech Vice President for Research Van Romero said that the resultant spill, which measured about a half-cup of the substance, had been neutralized, but that Jones Hall would remain closed until the following morning as a further precaution.