Stench of sulfur clears out City Hall

Evacuation follows routine use of liquid drain cleaner by overnight crews

Staff WriterNovember 9, 2006 

— Several hundred employees were evacuated from Raleigh City Hall Wednesday after some of them complained of a sulfurlike smell in the building.

No serious injuries were reported, though some employees complained of throat irritation, said Raleigh Fire Department Division Chief H.F. Warner.

The odor originated with a cleaning crew that poured drain cleaner containing a small amount of sulfuric acid down the building's drain system. The odor spread through the building's heating and air-conditioning system, Warner said.

"In a building this size, once the odor gets into the duct area, it is easily dispersed," Warner said.

Warner said the crew normally cleans the building after hours.

"It takes place on a regular basis," Warner said.

Warner said it would take Raleigh's hazardous materials crew about an hour to flush out the building's drain system and ventilate it.

Firefighters and police blocked West Hargett Street in front of the building. Many employees waited across the street in Nash Square.

April Love, an N.C. State University student interning at Raleigh's parks and recreation offices on the sixth floor, smelled the rotten-egg odor moments before she was ordered to evacuate.

"My supervisor told me to shut down my computer and go to the park," Love said.

Staff writer Thomasi McDonald can be reached at 829-4533 or tmcdonal@newsobserver.com.

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