October 28, 2011
At about 7:30 p.m. on Thursday (Oct. 27), a small explosion occurred in Room 122 in the Nanotechnology Building on the Texas Tech University campus.
The explosion involved waste acid storage bottles. The laboratory was unattended, no one was hurt, and the explosion occurred in a storage cabinet under a laboratory hood.
The cabinet was not damaged. The building was immediately evacuated. The Lubbock Fire Department and its HAZMAT team responded and cleaned up the acid and glass that sprayed onto the floor of the laboratory. The building was opened about three hours later.
This is the second accident on the Texas Tech campus over a two-week period involving waste acid storage bottles. In both cases, the precise mechanism prompting the generation of pressure in the bottles is not known, but the evidence strongly suggests that mixtures of waste acids and organic solvents or mixtures of acids were involved, and this is not compliant with Texas Tech regulations or training.
“Though I can point to significant progress made over the last 20 months, this second accident involving waste acid storage over a two week period is very problematic,” said Taylor Eighmy, vice president for research at Texas Tech. “We will be working with all laboratory safety personnel, faculty, chairs and deans to ensure that every lab is surveyed to ensure that no waste storage incompatibilities exist. We will be providing information to the TTU community about best practices on Monday, October 31. I would ask that faculty sit down with their students and staff and begin this evaluation process immediately ahead of our surveys.”
The accident is being formally investigated by the Texas Tech Office of Environmental Health and Safety. The laboratories associated with the work have been locked down to facilitate the investigation.
A serious explosion happened in another laboratory of the chemistry and biochemistry department on Jan. 7, 2010. A graduate student was seriously injured. As a consequence of that accident, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has conducted an investigation. It released its investigative report Oct. 19, to a national audience through a live webinar.
Texas Tech has launched its own website that describes its ongoing response to laboratory safety issues since the accident twenty months ago. This website will be updated over the following months as progress is made. The website is located at www.csbresponse.ttu.edu.