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Chemical combo used to unclog drain leads to evacuation of building

March 30, 2012

A combination of chemicals being used to unclog a drain led to a building being evacuated and parts of two streets being closed in Hagerstown Friday evening, city officials said.

The hazardous materials incident caused the first block of South Potomac Street and a portion of Antietam Street to be closed for about 90 minutes, according to a city news release.

A man using a cleaning agent and a drain-clearing solution to unclog a bathtub drain created a cloud in an apartment at 55 S. Potomac St., the release said. The incident was called in at 6:49 p.m.

The man was taken to Meritus Medical Center as a precaution, but was not showing any symptoms, the release said. The chemical reaction from the products the man was using can cause respiratory problems.

Firefighters evacuated the building and ventilated it to remove any remaining gases and chemical residue, the release said. Crew members who initially responded also underwent a decontamination procedure to prevent further exposure.

All the residents of the building were allowed back in, a city spokeswoman said. The fire marshal did not know how many people had been in the building, she said.

About 25 personnel from the Hagerstown Fire Department, Washington County Emergency Service Hazardous Materials Team, Community Rescue Service and Hagerstown Auxiliary Police responded to the incident. The scene was cleared at about 8:20 p.m., the release said.

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