Some routine maintenance turned explosive Thursday after the bomb squad was called to the campus of Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. Faculty from the chemistry department found a dangerous substance in a vacant office, and emergency workers evacuated the building and surrounding area.
University officials say picric acid is a common chemical found in science departments across the country, and in its chemical form, it's perfectly safe, but when faculty members began cleaning out the old office of a retired teacher, they found a vile that gave them a scare. "It was there long enough to where it had dried and crystallized, and whenever you have chemicals that have dried and crystallized, there's always the potential that there could be some danger with that," EKU's Marc Whitt said.
University police worked with emergency responders from several agencies including the Lexington-Fayette County bomb squad to evacuate the area, and move the substance. "The potential is that it could be explosive," Whitt said, "but as to the extent, you don't know."
Fortunately because the school is in summer session, there were few people inside the building, and since the section of University Drive in front of the building is being repaved, there was no traffic at the time of the evacuation. In the end no one was hurt and experts safely destroyed the acid, and university leaders hope the incident has taught its teachers a valuable lesson. "Always clean out your office," Whitt said.
EKU officials tell NEWSFIRST as soon as the acid was removed, faculty members checked all offices in Miller Hall to make sure there were not any other dangerous materials inside.