A spilled container of nitric acid forced the evacuation of the Shantz building on Monday.
Officers on scene said no one was hurt in the accident.
The spill occurred when a glass container filled with nitric acid dropped and broke. According to Tucson Fire Prevention Capt. Jeff Langejans, someone tried to neutralize the spill with sodium bicarbonate, causing an exothermic reaction that melted the copper piping on compressed air containers in the lab.
Fourth Street closed while Fire officials and a hazardous materials control team responded to the incident.
“It’s been isolated, it was an accident,” Langejans said.
Sgt. Juan Alvarez of the University of Arizona Police Department said such spills are rare, but establishing a perimeter and ensuring public safety are the most important things when they do.
Lloyd Wundrock, a health safety officer for Risk Management Services, said he believes that anywhere between 500 and 1000 ml of the liquid were spilled. No one was hurt in the incident, according to Langejans, but that doesn’t mean the incident was without risk.
“Nitric acid is a level four on what we call our fire diamond, which means it’s as bad as it gets,” Langejans said.
According to Chris Kopach, assistant vice president of Facilities Management, the spill occurred on the fifth floor of the building, which houses only offices and laboratories so no classes were canceled as a result. Kopach said Facilities Management is usually equipped to deal with chemical spills if they can get to them quickly enough, but they were unable to so this time so they had to call in TFD for help.
Both Fourth Street and the fifth floor of the building were reopened shortly after the incident.