FRANKFORT, Ind. - After a street sanitation worker was sent to the hospital to get treatment for exposure to a hazardous chemical, leaders with the city's street department want to stop future incidents from happening.
According to Frankfort Street Department superintendent Jason Forsythe, a worker was out on a trash route on Thursday when the crew used the on-board trash compactor and unknowingly had a bottle which contained muriatic acid, a less pure form of hydrochloric acid. The pressure from the compactor forced the bottle to burst and sprayed the worker in the face.
Forsythe said the worker had turned extremely red when the crew returned to the department's headquarters after the incident. "He started to burn and it took his breath away," he said.
The worker was forced to wash the acid off of him at the street department and then again when he was taken to the hospital.
"We unloaded to find out exactly what got him," Forsythe said. "We were able to find a bag in there that was actually smoking, we called the fire department and they came out with their hazmat on. We took a look, found the bottle and were able to get the label off. I took a picture of it and sent it to the mayor who was at the ER and got it hospital staff so they knew what to treat him with."
The worker was released from the hospital later that afternoon and returned to light work to end the week. He returned to his full duties this week.
The entire incident should have never happened.
"If this hydrochloric acid would not have been in there, this would not have happened," said Forsythe.
This kind of hazardous material - like many others - isn't suppose to go in the garbage, which eventually goes to the landfill. A spokesperson at the Clinton County Solid Waste District said these materials aren't allowed in most landfills in the state.
There are some solid waste landfills across Indiana and some recycling centers can also handle chemicals, too.
At the Frankfort Street Department, there is an area designated for recycling. It is mostly for paints, televisions and other electronics. However, Forsythe said the space is also for unwanted chemicals, such as hydrochloric acid, but those items should be delivered to the facility.
"It's a place for everyone to bring the things they don't need any more and we can get rid of them safely," said Forsythe.
The superintendent will be going over safety precautions with his staff and telling them what to look at for. At the same time, Forsythe is expanding his flyer that goes with utility bills to customers in Frankfort about what does and doesn't belong in the trash.
If there is ever an item in question, it's always best to check with someone on what to do, rather than take a guess.
"If they have a question at all on whether it should go in the trash or not, call us and we'll let them know and there's obviously a place to bring it," Forsythe said.
Once the bottle was found, leaders with the street department talked with police and other community officials to find out if the chemical could have been linked to drug activity. They don't believe that is the case. They said the chemical containing the hydrochloric acid is typically used for cleaning swimming pools.