Mysterious substance incites frenzy

Powder found in Carruther's Hall turns out to be harmless, University returns to normal

In the early afternoon on Thursday, April 25, University Alerts sent out an alert saying to avoid Carruthers Hall, which was the location of a chemical spill. The alert was lifted later in the afternoon. McGregor McCance, Interim Director of Media Relations for the Office of University Communications at the University, described what happened at Carruthers.

“An employee who was opening and distributing mail in the mailroom there noticed she had a powdery residue on her hands. She stopped her work and others who were doing mail, and notified the authorities,” McCance said in an email.

Upon arrival, a joint team of police and fire department officials cleared the area of employees before testing the substance to determine whether it was dangerous.

“A team of Hazmat team members went in to investigate the area,” said Fire Department Captain Joe Phillips. “They went in and discovered a small amount of powdery residue in the area, and then they tested that to see if it was hazardous in any way. It came up as not hazardous.”

Phillips says that the substance turned out to be “dust and debris that collected on some of the packages in shipping” and came off on the employees desk.

Phillips also praised everyone involved for acting quickly and appropriately for a chemical scare of this type.

“I thought that everyone involved – the employees in the area, the secondary group of employees that was in the rest of the building – I thought they handled themselves very well,” Phillips said. “They knew exactly the process that they would go through to discover what was there, how to isolate it, and how to keep themselves safe. And then there was a really good unified command structure between the Fire Department, the Police Department, and the officials at the University to work together and control this situation.”

Carruthers Hall was reopened at 1:30, approximately and hour and a half after the employee’s emergency phone call.
“Carruthers has now reopened,” McCance said.

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