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Published: Apr 25, 2007
Spencer Massachusetts Declares 'Mass Casualty Incident'
by Mike Baron

Update: Spencer Massachusetts's fire chief has declared a mass casualty incident and a few residents have been taken to St. Vincent's Hospital.

It would seem that too much sodium hydroxide was released into the town of Spencer's water system causing a dozen people to be sent to the hospital Wednesday morning because of chemical burns.

Spencer Massachusetts residents have been warned not to use or touch the water until further notice. 

According to reports, Police began to receive calls at about 6:30 a.m. from residents who had taken showers and reported skin irritations including moderate burns.

The culprit is a malfunction at the town's drinking water treatment plant which released too much sodium hydroxide into the water supply, Sgt. John Agnew said.  Sodium hydroxide, also commonnly known as lye, is a common water additive utilized to reduce water acidity and limit pipe corrosion.

State officials are currently working with the town to flush the water supply so as to restore service as quickly as possible. They hope to have it accomplished by the evening, however the state would need to run tests on the water after the system is flushed.

Ambulances are on stand-by at the Spencer Fire Department for anyone who needs medical attention, accordiing to WBZTV.

A decontamination tent has also been pitched at the fire station in East Brookfield as a precaution. 

The DEP advised residents to discard any liquids or foods made with town water on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The excess chemicals were expected to be removed by this evening and the water supply would be subject to extensive environmental testing, Terenzini said.

Local bottled water companies have dropped off drinking water for pickup at the fire station. Officials are devising plans to deliver drinking water to those who can't get to the fire station, he said.

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