Follansbee searches for hazards

FOLLANSBEE – Bob Fowler, Brooke County emergency management director, said officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection will search a Rose Street house to ensure it contains no other hazardous material.

Fowler said the gaseous material that caused minor burns to a man cleaning the vacant house Saturday night has been found to be chloropicrin, a substance once used in safes in the 1930s and 40s. He said the safes were designed to release the chemical if someone attempted to drill or break into them.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the substance has properties similar to tear gas, including the ability to irritate the eyes and skin, and local officials initially believed the substance released by the man was tear gas.

Fowler said the man lifted a bag containing vials of chloropicrin, inadvertently breaking one when the bag tore. He said the man, who also complained of having trouble breathing, transported himself to a hospital, where he was treated and released.

Fowler said he arranged for a regional hazardous material team to remove the substance from the home.

But he said it will remain quarantined until the state DEP officials complete their search.

Follansbee officials said the man was cleaning the house in preparation for it to be transferred to a new owner.

But Fire Chief Larry Rea has recommended the house be razed, saying it also is plagued with mold.