By Daniel Pagan
Engineering students and staff had an explosive surprise after a staff member found a small amount of TNT in the Schulich School of Engineering building last Friday.
A lab technician found about half a kilogram of a chemical suspected to be trinitrotoluene, during a routine review of chemicals in storage facilities. U of C research communications manager Grady Semmens explained that the material, found in a sealed container, was clearly identified as 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene, otherwise known as TNT.
“The university hazardous materials group was contacted to determine the safest way to dispose of the material and the decision was made to contact Calgary Emergency Services,” said Semmens.
The university is reviewing its procedures to prevent similar incidents from occurring. Semmens said the university is investigating the contents of the container and how it got there in the first place. He added researchers are required to follow the U of C Laboratory Safety manual to minimize risks when they handle such substances.
“In 2008, the University of Calgary initiated Chematix, a chemical inventory tracking software program that allows the university to electronically track chemicals and hazardous materials,” said Semmens. “This process has begun in the Schulich School of Engineering and it is anticipated to be implemented in all engineering labs by the end of this calendar year.”
Semmens explained that explosive experts from the Calgary Fire Department and the Calgary Police Service’s Tactical Team determined the TNT posed minimal risk and was not volatile in its present state.
“Deciding to err on the side of caution, emergency services and university risk management staff chose to evacuate the building while the container was removed,” said Semmens.
The police blew up the container in a nearby field.