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Two floors close after hazardous spill scare

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Winchester firefighters cool down Tuesday afternoon at the Valley Health building on West Cork Street during a response to a hazmat incident at the facility. J.R. Williams/Daily

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No one injured as gallon of chemical leaks into boiler room of Cork Street facility

By J.R. Williams - jrwilliams@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- About 50 people were displaced from their morning routines Tuesday while a hazardous materials team neutralized a small chemical spill at Valley Health's facility on West Cork Street.

No one was injured when about a gallon of ChemTreat BL-1544 -- a flammable, odorous chemical used to keep boilers clean -- spilled in a boiler room at the facility, said Winchester Fire and Rescue Chief Scott Cullers. The ground floor and first floor were evacuated in response, closing some offices and canceling outpatient physical therapy sessions and other services.

The remainder of the large building, which includes offices used by Shenandoah University, Blue Ridge Hospice and other organizations, was unaffected, Cullers said. No inpatients were relocated, and each floor was monitored for vapors as the response unfolded.

Crews responded to a fire alarm that sounded at about 8 a.m., but efforts stretched into mid-afternoon as outside temperatures soared. Smoke likely triggered the alarm, a Valley Health spokesman said, but it was unclear Tuesday afternoon what specifically caused the spill.

A team of firefighters made entry several times into the building to stabilize the spill and cooled off on a 90-degree day by standing in full gear under a makeshift shower set up in front of the building.

A group of about 15 university graduate students gathered nearby, waiting for word on how personal belongings they left behind would be returned.

The cause of the spill was under investigation Tuesday.

While local crews neutralized the chemical with citric acid and worked on ventilating the building, GAC Chemical Corp. was called to finish cleanup.

Cullers said at about 1 p.m. that a crew was expected to arrive within the hour but that in the meantime, there was no danger to the community or other occupants of the building.
"It wasn't a large spill. It was pretty well isolated," he said.

Valley Health activated its incident command center at Winchester Medical Center on Tuesday morning in response to the incident, said Alfred E. Pilong Jr., president of the hospital.

"Thankfully, we did not have to deal with any emergency situations with our patients that we have here in our rehab center, but we were prepared if needed," he said.

Pilong said Tuesday afternoon that company officials had yet to tour the affected area to investigate.

"Until we get our team in to assess, we won't know what caused the problem," he said.

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