Solvent spill forces family from home



HMN-Solvent spilled in the basement of a multi-family home left many waiting on dissipating fumes to return home. (Union Leader)

MANCHESTER — A multi-family home on Merrimack Street remained empty Sunday to allow fumes from a solvent spill in the basement to dissipate.

Several residents of the apartments at 289 Merrimack St. stopped by the property Sunday, hoping to learn how soon they would be allowed back into their homes. The entrances were blocked by police tape and windows were open throughout the building, allowing it to ventilate.

“I’m on the second floor and I could smell it really bad up there,” said Fiorda Perez, who was just putting her 2-year-old son to bed Saturday night when a neighbor knocked on the door, saying they were calling the fire department and advising everybody to get outside. “I started freaking out because he was about to fall asleep,” she said.

Perez and her son, Chris, were among the residents who stopped by Sunday afternoon to see if the building had been cleared for them to return. She had also stopped by in the morning when she said a fire chief was informing a neighbor who had not been there Saturday night that the building remained off-limits.

District Chief Hank Martineau of the Manchester Fire Department said investigators were still trying to identify the solvent. He said the building’s owner lined up a cleaning company to remove the contaminated soil from the basement floor today.

“Right now nobody can live there until they do that. We still have levels of volatile organic chemicals coming from inside,” Martineau said.

There were no injuries, although several residents went to the hospital to have carbon monoxide levels in their blood checked and all were OK, Martineau said.

According to a release from the Manchester Fire Department, firefighters arrived at the three-story home around 9:40 p.m. and remained on the scene until about 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

Investigators determined the fumes, which contained high levels of volatile organic compounds, were coming from a spill of about five gallons of an unknown solvent in the basement.

Windows to the basement were open and a strong chemical odor was still present in the heat Sunday afternoon.

“It was really strong last night,” said Gillian Shea, 16, who lives in a first-floor unit and stopped by with her mother, Kelley Feeley.

“We were out here from like nine o’clock until two in the morning,” Feeley said, standing next to the yellow police tape at the entrance. “They told us that someone would come in this morning and clean it up, but I don’t think they’re going to do anything today because it’s Sunday.”

The American Red Cross helped set up the displaced residents at a motel on the West Side. Feeley and Perez both said they expected to stay there until Tuesday morning, when they hoped to be able to go home again.

Perez said she was glad nothing was damaged, but it was still a frightening experience.

“I was just more scared because my son is the youngest occupant of the building. It’s just scary because we were all going to sleep,” Perez said.


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