Lawrence firefighters cool errant chemical reaction in adhesives plant

Lawrence firefighters today helped an adhesives manufacturer regain control of its workspace after a chemical reaction overheated, said Lawrence Fire Chief Jack Bergeron.

In a telephone interview, Bergeron said firefighters used water to cool an “exothermic reaction that overreacted” at Key Polymer, which is located at 17 Shepard St.

He said that during the manufacturing process, company workers mix chemicals and then put them through a heat-producing reaction. Today, as has happened in the past, reactions created “too much heat in too short a period of time.”

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The reactions can cause “huge amounts of smoke and heat,” Bergeron said.

He said a reaction between two chemicals caused the incident today, but that company’s employees are not sure why. “The reaction kind of ran away,” Bergeron said.

He said the two chemical culprits carry a very slight health hazard, and that there was no fire, “just a heat reaction that did generate quite a bit of smoke.”

After controlling the reaction, firefighters evacuated smoke from the building, but Bergeon said his department did not call the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“It seemed as though they did everything according to the OSHA rules,” Bergeron said.

Bergeron said a company engineer met firefighters at the door, provided all necessary information, and directed them to the exact location of the chemical tank. The company’s industrial hygienist was also on scene to check air quality before people re-entered the building.

There were no injuries to report.

“Everything went well,” Bergeron said.