Federal agencies begin cleaning up hazardous materials at Knoxvi

Federal agencies begin cleaning up hazardous materials at Knoxville College lab building

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EPA crews discovered thousands of chemical bottles ranging in size from five gallons to milliliter volumes. In all, 39 rooms and labs contained various amounts of hazardous substances. (source: EPA) EPA crews discovered thousands of chemical bottles ranging in size from five gallons to milliliter volumes. In all, 39 rooms and labs contained various amounts of hazardous substances. (source: EPA)
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Federal environmental agencies have begun cleanup work at an abandoned laboratory facility on the Knoxville College campus.

The Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 Emergency Response and Removal Branch with assistance from the Superfund Technical Assistance Response Team (START) and Emergency and Rapid Removal Services (ERRS) Contractors responded to a request for help from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

TDEC performed an initial evaluation on June 5 and found multiple leaking and damaged containers of hazardous substances and hazardous wastes throughout the three-story building.

TDEC also noted many instances of incompatible and improper storage. The facility was unsecured and there were noticeable signs of trespassing and scrapping. Many windows were broken and exterior doors were not locked. The building is directly adjacent to residential neighborhoods.

EPA crews discovered thousands of chemical bottles ranging in size from five gallons to milliliter volumes. In all, 39 rooms and labs contained various amounts of hazardous substances, many of which were damaged, leaking, unlabeled or otherwise compromised.

Many of the materials are flammable, combustible, oxidizing, toxic, air reactive, corrosive or radioactive.

Crews also found elevated mercury levels throughout the building. EPA crews, however, monitored air outside the building and did not detect any radiation levels, mercury levels or other hazardous substance levels.

EPA then requested additional equipment, supplies and specialized personnel. Crews began cleaning up the site on Monday. The process is expected to take three to four weeks.

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