White Flint Mall in Bethesda was ordered evacuated briefly yesterday when it was feared that an accidental chemical spill in a store would produce deadly cyanide gas.
But the Montgomery County hazardous materials team quickly determined that there was no danger, and the mall was reopened after about eight minutes, according to Rockville Fire Chief Woodrow W. Mossburg.
"It was more of a scare than anything else," Mossburg said after the spill was cleaned up.
The incident began about 5:55 p.m. when an employe of Creative Goldsmiths, a store on the mall's second level, inadvertently spilled a chemical he was using to clean old gold. Fearing that it would mix with another chemical solution nearby, and possibly create a deadly gas, the employe called authorities, according to Mossburg.
The Rockville, Bethesda and Kensington fire departments arrived at the mall, along with the hazardous materials team whose members entered the store wearing protective masks, Mossburg said. Based on the possible hazard, an evacuation of the mall was ordered. After only a small portion of the four-level mall was cleared, the order was rescinded.
Mossburg said the chemicals involved were sodium cyanide and an acid of unknown type and that they mixed and, under normal conditions, would have reacted to produce deadly hydrogen cyanide gas.
The reaction failed to occur and no gas was generated, he said, because the acid had lost its strength with age.
The chemicals were taken from the store in bucket-type containers.