Hazmat event has Grand Rapids chemical company rethinking operations

Posted at 8:00 PM, Sep 09, 2014

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A hazardous material scare on the north side of Grand Rapids has a chemical company rethinking the way they operate.

It isn't the first time this year that Haviland Enterprises has had this same chemical reaction create a hazardous materials situation.

“The way to prevent it is for us to not handle these chemistries, which is a real possibility after two events in one year; same chemistry, same very similar problems,” CEO Bernard Haviland said.

CEO Bernard Haviland is not backing down from questions about his company’s second hazmat situation in seven months.

Grand Rapids Battalion Chief Dan Stoddard says an oxidizer got wet, creating heat and setting off the sprinkler system and causing the reaction.

The incident shut down the the area and prompted evacuations at nearby buildings, including Apple Tree Learning Center. Employees from the center had to call concerned parents to tell them to come pick up their children.

A white plume of smoke was seen overhead and those nearby smelled the chemical, which mimics chlorine.

Haviland says the chemicals were headed for the pool and spa industry.

“Which you might not think is all that hazardous but these chemistries at some point they are hazardous, these oxidizers,” he said.

The chemical goes in swimming pools to kill the bugs.

Haviland Enterprises has been carrying the product for five years.

Haviland says it’s too early to know exactly what happened but not too early to decide it can never happen again.

“It may be too sensitive, too delicate and too hazardous for us at this point, we may just jettison the chemistry completely,” he said.

There were no injuries at today's hazmat reaction, though an employee was hospitalized for high blood pressure during the chaos of the event.