Surprise Study Break: Vial of acid not so vile, Hazmat team determines

Jeff Sawasky, Ron Ettenger and Nick Doura, of the Trenton Hazmat team, test the suspicious substance found in Moore Library, which turned out to be a chemical cleaning component.
Jeff Sawasky, Ron Ettenger and Nick Doura, of the Trenton Hazmat team, test the suspicious substance found in Moore Library, which turned out to be a chemical cleaning component.

By Kristie Kahl and Allie Ward

Students, administrators and staff members were evacuated from Moore Library around 3 p.m. yesterday after an unknown substance, later identified as cleaning solution, was found on the third floor.

“One of the librarians here found a pill bottle on a table that looked suspicious, so she called security,” said Lawrence Township Police Department (LTPD) Lt. Charles Edgar. “We evacuated the library as a precaution. Nobody is injured and we’re just trying to analyze exactly what has happened with this liquid.”

According to Edgar, the librarian found a prescription pill bottle filled with liquid, who called security, who then called the Science Department. After being unable to determine what the substance was, the LTPD was called to the scene.

Trenton Fire Department, Lawrence Road Fire Department and LTPD were on the scene at about 3:30 p.m. followed by the Hazardous Materials Response Team (Hazmat).

An initial Rider Alert was sent out from the Office of the President at 4:24 p.m. describing the situation.

“We evacuated the library, and it will remain closed until further notice,” it said. “Lawrenceville Township emergency personnel are on site and removed the material from the library. No other buildings or parts of campus are affected.”

According to Dean of Students Anthony Campbell, the university network was experiencing problems that caused a delay in Rider Alerts.

“The problem made it difficult for the Rider Alert to go out,” Campbell said. “We also sent out list-serve e-mails because the network was having issues.”

After the Hazmat team identified the substance as gluconic acid, a second alert was sent out.

“Lawrence Township Emergency Personnel have removed the substance found in the Moore Library on the Lawrenceville campus this afternoon. They have determined that the Library is safe and clear for use. This chemical does not represent a hazard.”

Campbell emphasized that the situation was never seen as a major threat to students’ safety.

“It was pretty well localized in one place and we knew there was no danger to the rest of the campus,” he said. “We knew what the scope was.”

As a result of the evacuation, students working in the library were rushed out of the building. Personal items such as books, papers and Bronc IDs had to be left inside until the library was deemed safe.

Senior Meredith Goldfarb was giving a presentation in one of the study rooms when the evacuation was announced.

“We had to run out of the building,” Goldfarb said. “I was like, ‘Am I breathing in asbestos?’ I didn’t want to die.”

Sophomore Brandon Feinstein was in the middle of printing a paper when the police made him leave.

“They didn’t really tell us much,” Feinstein said. “I had just printed my work and now I can’t get it. I feel like I won’t get credit for this tomorrow.”

A crowd of students and faculty gathered out in front, away from the building’s entrance. Local news helicopters flew overhead as the Hazmat team tested the substance on the landing of the library. The situation was assessed and the emergency personnel left the scene at approximately 5 p.m.

Though the substance turned out to be harmless, Campbell is proud of the way the university handled the potential threat.

“We would rather be safe than sorry,” he said.

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