Leaks of Chemicals, Gas Prompt Evacuations in Camarillo, Valencia

Times Staff Writer

Leaks of chemicals and gas Thursday prompted evacuations of part of a business district in Camarillo and the basement of a hospital in Valencia.

No one was hurt in either incident, authorities said.

Two square blocks of Camarillo were evacuated for two hours when a tanker truck spilled about 15 gallons of moderately toxic solvents on a busy intersection, Ventura County officials said.

At the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Valencia, what hospital officials thought was a leak of a flammable and toxic gas prompted them to order decontamination of 20 employees and to send four others to the emergency room for observation. But an investigation found the substance to be Freon, an inert gas that is less dangerous. No patients had to be moved in the incident, a hospital spokeswoman said.


About 75 Evacuated

In Camarillo, about 75 customers and merchants were asked to leave the area surrounding Lewis Road and Ventura Boulevard shortly after a truck owned by U.S. Services Inc. of Corona spilled the solvents about noon, according to Sgt. Noel Brown of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

The liquid wastes were being trucked from a Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. plant in Camarillo to the firm’s Minnesota disposal site, said Greg Smith, a hazardous materials specialist with the county Environmental Health Department.

The material contained various amounts of six mildly toxic and flammable solvents, and a small amount of oil and water, Smith said. A special hazardous materials team from 3M soaked the wastes in sand, then trucked the sand to the 3M plant for storage, a company official said.


Dick Buska, 3M’s site manager, said the foul-smelling liquids are used to clean machinery and in a magnetic tape manufacturing process at the 3M plant.

Truck Didn’t Stop

Brown said a witness saw the liquid spill out of a valve at the back of the tanker truck while it was making a left turn at the intersection. The truck did not stop, he said.

But Bill Shearer, president of U.S. Services Inc., said “no evidence whatsoever” of a leak was found when his company tested the vehicle.


County health officials were called sheriff’s deputies evacuated several small businesses within two blocks of the intersection. No homes are in the area.

Smith said no one had been cited for the spill, but that an investigation would continue.

Odor Was Tip-Off

In Valencia, the basement evacuation was ordered about 2:30 p.m., when a hospital employee noticed a strange odor coming from an autoclave, a device used to sterilize hospital equipment, spokeswoman Anita Weld said. The basement contains data processing, purchasing and custodial offices, she said.


Hospital administrators at first believed the leak was of ethylene oxide, a flammable and moderately toxic gas used to sterilize hospital instruments, Weld said, and they ordered the employes to shower and change clothing.

Soon after the gas was found to be Freon, most of the basement was reopened, she said.