September 13, 2011

Chemical Spill Temporarily Closes Clark Hall

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Clark Hall was evacuated at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday after a chemical spill occurred in one of its laboratories.

An apparatus in the Advanced Experimental Physics Laboratory was knocked over during an experiment, causing nitrobenzene to spill in the room, said Prof. Kyle Shen, physics.

“A number of professors, including myself, were in the lab at the time of the accident. Fortunately, in the end, no one was seriously hurt by the accident and no major damage occurred,” he said.

Members of Cornell’s Environmental Health and Safety Department, the Ithaca Fire Department and Cornell University Police cleared the building in response to the spill, according to Claudia Wheatley, director of University press relations. Less than two ounces of the chemical — “a very small amount” — were spilled, Wheatley said.

“EH&S did not want to take any chances and wanted to proceed in an extremely cautious manner,” Shen said.

Low levels of nitrobenzene exposure can cause fatigue, weakness and dizziness, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

After the affected area was cleaned, Clark Hall reopened at around 4:30 in the afternoon. Shen said the spill’s damage was not as extensive as the response to it may have made it seem.

“Even though there were a lot of fire trucks and emergency vehicles, in reality the accident was much less dangerous or eventful than it might have appeared from the outside,” he said.

Still, Shen noted, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Original Author: Akane Otani