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No One Hurt in Hazmat Call at Power Packaging in Geneva

Nine area fire departments respond to a late Valentine's Day Hazmat call at a food packaging plant in Geneva after nitric acid mixes with a chemical solvent.

Nine area Hazmat units responded late Thursday night to an unexpected Valentine's Day chemical reaction at Power Packaging, a food and beverage packaging plant at 2089 Pillsbury Drive in Geneva.

Geneva Fire Department Chief Steve Olson said Friday that Hazmat units were called in after nitric acid inadvertently was combined with an organic solvent.

"They don’t get along very well," Olson said.

Nitric acid is a strong acid and a powerful oxidizing agent and can be explosive when mixed with many organic compounds, such as turpentine, according to Wikipedia.

Olson said a technician disposed one chemical into a waste container, "and the result was a chemical reaction. We removed the cabinet and rendered it harmless out there."

Asked if the two elements could have ignited a fire, Olson said "if you get enough together, yes, but this never got to that point."

Because that part of Geneva is zoned industrial, the nearest residence most likely was a home at Averill and Kautz Road, Olson said. No vapors escaped, Olson said, so no adjoining property owners or employees were threatened at any time.

"There just wasn’t anything to vent. It was a small enough reaction that was manageable by the steps we took," Olson said. "It was a good outcome, and the company had a mediation firm on-site before we were done."

A call to Power Packaging was not immediately returned Friday afternoon.

The call was reported on Chicagofiremap.net at 11:55 p.m. and was characterized as a "Hazmat box/acid leak."

Departments from Geneva, Batavia, St. Charles, Aurora, Elburn, North Aurora, Montgomery and others responded to the mutual aid call. Units were at the scene for about five hours.

Olson said nine fire departments and five hours of cleanup are not at all out of the ordinary in a Hazmat situation.

"Any kind of chemical materials (involvement) takes a long time. We need to first understand what it is, so there’s a lot of pre-set-up and research," he said. "Whenever you get to this level of an incident, it requires more resources than most departments have available."

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