Forty-five families in Southeast Washington were evacuated from their apartment building for more than seven hours yesterday when the D.C. Fire Department discovered a 55-gallon drum leaking hydrochloric acid in the basement, fire officials said.
No damage or injury was reported, but two tenants were arrested after growing impatient and trying to cross police lines to return to their apartment, police said.
The acid was in a drum believed to be more than 15 years old, said Deputy Fire Chief William Mullikin. The drum was in the boiler room in the basement of the six-story complex at 601 Virginia St. SE, he said. The acid was used as a cleaning agent for the boiler.
D.C. firefighters were dispatched to scene about 3 p.m. after receiving complaints of a pungent odor coming from the basement, Mullikin said. The chemical apparently had eaten through the base of the drum and had given off the odor when it came into contact with moisture, he said.
Mullikin said tenants were evacuated to a nearby building because the acid can emit a poisonous gas.
The acid was removed from the building around 10:30 p.m. by a private firm contracted with the city for such operations. The chemical was scheduled to go to a chemical disposal facility, a spokesman for the company said.