Local News

Explosive Material Removed From Durham VA Hospital

Posted September 12, 2007 1:02 p.m. EDT
Updated September 12, 2007 7:36 p.m. EDT

— 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.