2 April 1980
Cans of diethyl ether blown without incident
Six cans of dangerously aged diethyl ether were exploded without incident Sunday morning in a Princeton University landfill between Washington Road and Harrison Street in West Windsor.
The five-gallon cans had been stored and forgotten in the basement of Frick Chemical Laboratory since 1966. One can dated from the 1950s. Storage of over a year is believed to be dangerous since the ether may evaporate and concentrate peroxides, making them an explosion hazard.
The cans were moved by McAlinden Corp., a Hopewell blasting contractor, with men wearing hooded blast suits.
Washington Road had been cleared of traffic and pedestrians were waved away as a special truck carrying the cans drove slowly down the road and across Lake Carnegie to the landfill.
Assisting were the Princeton Township and West Windsor police, who blocked off roads and were posted along the route. Rescue squad personnel and firemen were also present.
The cans were delivered to a wooded section of university property not far from the Delaware and Raritan Canal.
They were strapped with explosives, buried in seven-foot-deep holes and electrically detonated.
University officials assessed the probability of an accidental explosion as less than one in a thousand.
AN EXPLOSIVE charge is taped to the outside of a can of diethyl ether by two employees of McAlenden Corp.. Clyde Servis (left) and Howard Brooks. The five-gallon container was buried in a seven-foot pit at a land-fill between Washington Road and Harrison Street, near the Princeton Fete grounds, and detonated.
(Bob Sherman Jr. photo)