Fairfax chemical spill causes school evacuation, sends two staffers to hospital

A chemical spill at South Lakes High School in Reston sent two staffers to the hospital and forced two wings of the school to be shut down early this morning, school officials said.

At about 6:45 this morning, a container of hydrochloric acid was spilled inside a storage room, school officials said. In a letter to parents, South Lakes Principal Kim Retzer wrote that no students were injured during the incident, which happened before classes started Monday.

Two school staff members were transported to the Reston Hospital Center as a precautionary measure, Retzer wrote. Fairfax County Fire and Rescue personnel arrived on scene and closed down parts of the school where the spill occurred.

Classes affected by the partial building evacuation went on as scheduled in other areas of the school, Retzer wrote. By 9:45 a.m., Fairfax fire and rescue officials deemed the situation resolved and reopened the classrooms and hallways affected the spill.

Hydrochloric acid is a colorless liquid with a “pungent, irritating odor,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is highly corrosive and can cause severe burns if it comes into contact with skin, and is noxious to breathe. It is frequently used in small amounts in household cleaning products as a disinfectant and stain remover, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.
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