Memorial University is taking no chances with a quantity of unidentified chemicals which are being removed from a storage closet in the Education Building, located on the St. John’s campus. In addition to the unidentified chemical bottles, health and safety personnel have identified a number of small compressed gas cylinders in the same area that require specialized disposal.
As a precautionary measure, the university has contracted a company with special expertise in chemical disposal procedures to undertake the removal and will be closing the building while the work is done.
“A priority of the university is laboratory safety,” said Sheila Miller, director of the university’s Department of Health and Safety. “A needs assessment of this laboratory was undertaken a short time ago and a number of chemical bottles and cylinders were found in a storage room. Some had labels, others did not. We believe it’s important to be proactive and plan to remove these materials carefully. These chemicals pose no hazard to building occupants at this time. They are locked up and cannot be disturbed. Most of the labelled chemicals will be placed in the fume hood in the lab and disposed of through normal hazardous waste disposal procedures. The unidentified chemicals present a different challenge, and it’s the removal of these chemicals that will constitute a potential hazard. In these situations, we always plan for worst case scenarios such as the possibility that these chemicals may be shock sensitive. We are confident that we can, using proper procedures, remove these materials without incident.”
On Friday, Feb. 26, the university will close and lock the Education Building at 5 p.m. and the university’s Campus Enforcement and Patrol (CEP) officers will sweep the building to ensure it is vacant. Starting at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27, the consultants will either dispose or remove the chemicals from the third floor laboratory. As a precautionary measure, Irwin’s Road and Pedagogue’s Close will be closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic starting at 6:45 a.m. Parking lots 4 and 18, adjacent to the Education Building will also be closed while this work is being done. The QE II Library will delay its opening until 12 noon on that day.
The university expects that the Education Building and campus roadways will be reopened by 5 p.m. on Feb. 27.