Hazmat situation at Boston College chemistry lab over after fire department finds no danger

Boston firefighters and a hazmat team spent more than two hours testing the air at a Boston College chemistry building Sunday night after a strange odor was reported, but found no culprit, fire officials said.

The incident is the third time in just over a year that Boston firefighters have responded to the college’s Merkert Chemistry Center.

Students noticed a strange smell after entering a third-floor lab of the chemistry building, located at 2609 Beacon St. in Brighton, around 6:45 p.m. The students called Boston College Police, who notified the Boston Fire Department.

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Fire officials declared the incident a level-three hazmat response, which means the firefighter entry team were fully suited up when they entered the building, said fire department spokesman Steve MacDonald.

However, after three different hazmat team entries, all tests came back negative for anything hazardous. No one was injured.

“These are students used to being in chemistry labs, so for them to smell a strange odor is of course cause for concern,” MacDonald said. “They did the right thing.”

Crews had cleared out by around 9:15 p.m., and the building was turned back over to to the college.

“BC’s own safety team dealing with the lab on a daily basis will check it further, but everything on our end came back negative,” MacDonald said. “They have lab safety managers and a whole team of people who deal with things like this.”

City Public Heath will also check the building again Monday morning, he said.

Although Sunday’s incident marks the third time Boston firefighters have responded to the same chemistry building in just over a year, MacDonald said there is no need for major concern.

“It’s a chemistry lab building at a major college, so we do respond here time to time, but there’s nothing unusual about it—the labs are used for learning,” he said. “We respond to different labs all over the city.”

A hazmat team responded to the Merkert Center on June 1 after a graduate assistant came in contact with a dangerous chemical identified as Piperdine, which forced officials to evacuate the building. The man, who was exposed to the spilled chemical while unpacking a box in a chemistry laboratory, decontaminated himself using building facilities and was later taken to a local hospital.

Fire crews also responded in late June 2011 after a beaker containing a small amount of thionyl chloride, a substance commonly used in organic chemistry experiments, exploded, harming the chemistry student wielding it, causing cuts to her face and minor burns to her hands.