6 February 1980
No present danger: Volatile chemical to stay put for now
by Michael Holcombe
Plans to move canisters of a potentially explosive chemical from Frick Laboratory on William Street have been postponed indefinitely as they presently pose no danger, according to the Princeton University Information Office.
University spokesman George Eager said Friday that transport of those chemicals will be postponed until it can be arranged to be “conducted in as safe a manner as possible.” He said that officials are not reluctant to wait because the chemicals pose no danger of explosion while sitting in the basement of Frick Lab. The possibility of explosion would arise during their movement.
Recently several canisters of diethyl ether, a common solvent, which are apparently more than 10 years old, were discovered in the basement of Frick Lab. When it is exposed to oxygen, peroxides, highly explosive compounds, can form and present the danger of explosion when moved.
Princeton officials are not certain that danger actually exists but are cautious because of the age of the cannisters.
University officials attempted last week to call in an Army demolition squad from Fort Dix to conduct the transportation of the chemicals to an open site nearby where they would be intentionally detonated. The Army told Princeton, however, that it was not properly equipped.
According to Mr. Eager the university will hire a private contractor to enact the removal of those cannisters, but that it may not occur for as long as several weeks.
It is now common practice for diethyl ether to be either used or disposed of within 30 days after the container has been opened. Unopened cannisters should be disposed of after a year.