Local News

Explosive Material Removed From Durham VA Hospital

Posted September 12, 2007

Map Marker  Find News Near Me

— Hazmat crews and the Durham County bomb squad removed a potentially explosive material from a storage shed Wednesday afternoon at the VA Medical Center in Durham.

Authorities found approximately a pint of crystallized picric acid Wednesday afternoon near Pratt and Douglas streets.

Hospital spokesman Hal Hummel said the chemical was being kept in an outdoor storage unit waiting to be disposed of properly when a worker noticed shortly before noon that it had crystallized.

When it becomes crystallized, picric acid can be explosive, Hummel said, and emergency crews were called in as a precaution. No one was in danger, and the hospital was not evacuated.

"It had the potential to be a very large explosion," said Capt. John Flamion with the Durham County Sheriff's Office. "Somebody could've come in there, moved it, dropped it, whatever, and it would've been a bad day for a bunch of people."

Picric acid is often used in the manufacture of explosives or munitions, but he said, the material in question was creatnine, a form of picric acid used for detecting kidney disease.

Authorities also shut down roads in the area and exits of Interstate 85 for about 10 minutes as they moved the material to the Durham County Sheriff's Office firing range, where the bomb squad used heavy explosives to detonate the chemical to make sure it completely disintegrated.

29 Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • poohperson2000 Sep 12, 2007

    "Authorities also shut down roads in the area and exits of Interstate 85 for about 10 minutes as they moved the material to the Durham County Sheriff's Office firing range, where the bomb squad used heavy explosives to detonate the chemical to make sure it completely disintegrated."

    They closed to road to transport it someplace it could be safely disposed of.

  • raider Sep 12, 2007

    According to the story, the picric acid was "being kept in an outdoor storage unit waiting to be disposed of properly". There is nothing wrong with this as long as it stays "wet". If you walk into that storage shed and notice crystals around the lid, you probably want to get rid of it ASAP. If the entire bottle is crystalized then calling in a hazmat team is a good idea, but they are competent enough at handling situations such as this that I don't think you need to close streets and evacuate buildings - that causes fear and pandemonium.

  • aprilcole Sep 12, 2007

    I don't really understand this. If you can shut down roads, and and close off highways and interstates, then you should try to move some of the ppl out of the hospital.i work there, and we didn't find anything out until 4:00 after they had cleaned it up. Thanks for the heads up there.

  • the alliance Sep 12, 2007

    What on the face of the earth makes picric acid?

  • patriotsrevenge Sep 12, 2007

    Did they soak their surgical instruments in the stuff?

  • carlzomer Sep 12, 2007

    Picric acid is commonly used in the laboratory to determine the amount of dissolved iron (fe) in water. It is also used for staining tissue samples for microscopic examination. So, it seems, that it does have valid uses. When it is fully saturated with water, it is safe. When it dries out it becomes explosive.
    Carl

  • R.O.BdaCZAR Sep 12, 2007

    That's mighty close to Duke, the sensitivity level is still high due to the hydraulic fluid mixup. Now that "seemingly" every hospital is a Duke affiliate in Durham, every incident is likely to be blown up if not highly scrutinized internally.

  • mfalesana Sep 12, 2007

    From what I have read and what I know picric acid is not a friendly antiseptic. It is primarily used in explosives and IS explosive itself. Sure it might be sensational a little bit but because of the news it is spawning all kinds of crazies that will try whatever they can to plot to kill us. Better safe than sorry.

  • martineer Sep 12, 2007

    Like was said before, in liquid form it is very safe. Once crystals start forming on the jar lid and screw cap, it is very explosive. So yes, if crystals were seen, they are doing the right thing to try and prevent a major explosion. It used to be commonly stocked in older pharmacies so there is no telling how much is still out there, unnoticed and ticking.

  • Adelinthe Sep 12, 2007

    Well, When In Doubt, Get Out!!!

    But I wonder where in the world it came from, and am blessed no one was hurt.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

More...