Hazardous materials call closes street in West Hartford

A fire engine leaves for a call from West Hartford Fire Station No. 1 in West Hartford, Conn., on Thursday Jan. 7, 2020.

WEST HARTFORD — Police and fire crews responded to a hazardous materials call Wednesday morning after officials say a homeowner threw chemicals into the back of a recycling truck, causing them to react and emit a white smoke.

A driver from the Paine’s Recycling company called West Hartford Public Safety Dispatch around 7:45 a.m. after seeing a white cloud come from the back of his truck on Ballard Drive, which was confirmed when first responders got to the scene about five minutes later, officials said.

Engine 1 also saw a liquid leaking from the back of the truck, officials said.

“It was determined that the homeowner had ordered a bulky trash pickup,” Police Sgt. Sara Nagle said. “Some of the items had to be refused by Paine’s as they were unknown chemicals. The homeowner then threw the items into the rear of the open garbage truck anyway. This caused the chemical reaction and the large emergency response.”

Engine 1 and West Hartford police were joined by additional fire units and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Emergency Response Unit.

“Fire units immediately evacuated the area around the truck, attempted to gain information about the chemicals involved, and utilized meters to verify that the area was safe,” Fire Chief Greg Priest said. “No illness or injuries to bystanders were reported.”

The American Medical Response, University of Connecticut Fire Department, West Hartford Public Works, Paine’s Rubbish and the DEEP Environmental Conservation Police were also brought to the scene throughout the incident. The Hartford Fire Department covered portions of West Hartford, Priest said.

The incident lasted for the bulk of the morning with a portion of the street remaining closed until the hazardous waste can be cleaned up, which the homeowner is organizing with a licensed contractor.

“After an extended operation of approximately three hours, the chemicals involved were identified and the incident was placed under control,” Priest said. “An environmental cleanup contractor will be responding to remove the chemicals in question.”

He said area residents were inconvenienced by the incident, but it was contained to the truck and street immediately surrounding it, meaning no homes needed to be evacuated.

“Based on the information available, no lasting environmental impact to the air or water is expected,” Priest said.

The homeowner, John Brennan, was charged with second-degree breach of peace, second-degree reckless endangerment, littering and discharging with no permit. He was later released on a $5,000 non-surety bond and is due in court on Sept. 2, police said.

“We would also like to use this opportunity to remind our residents that the disposal of household chemicals can be hazardous and there are specific procedures already in place to do so,” Priest said.

There are two collection days each year in town for hazardous materials. The next one is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sept. 19 at the West Hartford Department of Public Works on Brixton Street.

Connecticut Media Group