Blast hits plant in Mine Hilladmin
Two employees of a nail polish manufacturer were taken to St. Clare’s Hospital in Dover as a precaution after a small chemical explosion and fire Thursday on Iron Mountain Road, police said.
Wharton Police Sgt. Jim Rice said the chemical responsible for the blast, in a laboratory at the Fiabila USA/Gloss Tex Industries plant, is believed to be nitrocellulose.
Police were called to the scene just after 11 a.m. and evacuated the building along with surrounding businesses, Rice said, adding that the lab’s sprinkler system extinguished the fire by the time police arrived.
“They don’t know what triggered it, just that workers were working in the lab area,” Rice said.
County hazardous material and bomb squad units responded to the scene to ensure the other chemicals in the lab were secured.
The state Department of Health’s hazardous substance fact sheet describes nitrocellulose as a pulpy cotton-like solid, or a slightly yellow or clear, syrupy liquid that smells like ether. It is used in making explosives, rocket propellants, celluloid and other material.
Two male workers didn’t sustain any injuries, but were taken to the Dover hospital as a precaution and later released.
Two employees of the neighboring Mountain Landscape Contractors, Rick Smith and Robert Simon, said they heard a small blast and saw yellow smoke rising from the building where the explosion occurred.
They said there was a nearby retaining wall and that people were evacuating buildings and hopping over it.
“We saw guys jumping over, running through the parking lot,” Simon said.
Nick Villardi, of the Ridgewood Corp., a plumbing and heating supply business nearby, said he received a call from a firefighter friend who wasn’t yet at the scene.
“He wanted to know if our building was on fire,” Villardi said. He said he did not hear any explosion and had heard that “the building is pretty well soundproof.”
The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office was on the scene along with fire and rescue workers from Mine Hill, Wharton, Roxbury, Jefferson, Randolph, Dover and Picatinny Arsenal.
The blast remains under investigation.