Harford HAZMAT team responds to Upper Chesapeake alert

The loading dock at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center was closed for several hours Monday as members of the Harford County HAZMAT Response Team removed a cleaning product emitting fumes.

No injuries were reported, and no medical center staff or patients were removed from the Bel Air facility as a result of the incident, said Martha Mallonee, communications director for Upper Chesapeake Health.

"The only thing out of the ordinary we did was close the loading dock," she said Tuesday.

Upper Chesapeake Health operates Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air and Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace.

Mallonee said one of the medical center's two safety officers alerted the county HAZMAT team Monday afternoon after she checked out a report of a strange smell coming from the bio waste storage room near the loading dock.

She said the safety officer "agreed that the smell was concerning" and contacted HAZMAT personnel.

Robert Thomas, spokesman for the Harford County Department of Emergency Services, said 10 members of the team responded after being alerted at 12:17 p.m.

Mallonee said the team members responded quickly and found a small amount of "liquid deodorizer" on the floor of the room used for storing all forms of biological and chemical waste generated by the hospital.

Responders suspected the deodorizer had mixed with some water on the floor, causing the smell.

She stressed the bio waste is kept separate from the medical center's regular trash.

"You never know," Mallonee said. "If something is out of the ordinary you definitely want to report it."

She said the medical center loading dock was closed for several hours to allow HAZMAT team members time to identify the hazard, remove it and prevent any exposure.

The bio waste room was then cleaned and ventilated.

Mallonee said Upper Chesapeake staff regularly hold drills with Harford County emergency responders.

"We have good relationships with them," she said. "We called them right away; they got here right away and we dealt with it."

The 31-member team is made up of certified hazardous materials technicians. Team members respond to about 300 calls each year, involving various types of incidents, according to the team's web page at http://www.harfordpubicsafety.org.

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