Local News

Residents, pets burned by paint remover at Chapel Hill complex

Posted July 8, 2015 11:23 a.m. EDT
Updated July 9, 2015 1:07 p.m. EDT

— Ten residents and three animals suffered chemical burns after a contractor applied paint remover in 11 apartment buildings in Chapel Hill, authorities said Wednesday.

Chapel Hill firefighters said they were called to Pinegate Apartments, on Pinegate Circle, about 7:30 a.m. for a report of a strong chemical odor. They discovered a contractor used the paint remover on the floor and stairwell of the buildings on Tuesday afternoon but didn't warn residents of any danger.

A total of 128 units were affected, and a hazmat team was called in to assist.

"We had one resident that actually fell and obtained some chemical burns on their elbows and knees," said Lisa Edwards, a spokeswoman for the Chapel Hill Fire Department.

Zaryab Hassan said his dog, Hazel, suffered a reaction when her snout bumped one of the stairs as they were returning from a walk, and she then licked her nose.

"(The vet) said she had ulcer on her tongue, ulcer in her lungs," Hassan said. "She's not eating, and she's drinking a little bit of water."

Hazmat crews blocked off several buildings, and residents could not come out of the units for hours.

"There was nothing said about this stuff is hazardous," Hassan said. "The property manager, she said put plastic bags on (the dog's) feet, and it should be good."

Hours later, more than 100 residents were forced to leave, although some refused to evacuate. Some people wore rubber boots as the exited, but after already walking on the paint thinner several times, others said there was no point to that.

"It's so late to do that," Neveen Metry said.

Property managers declined to comment, but the fire department said the complex's management has agreed to arrange new housing for the residents and schedule a cleaning of the affected areas.