19 March 1980
University to Dispose of Chemicals Sunday;
Vacant Area South of Carnegie Lake Selected
Princeton University will detonate six metal canisters of potentially explosive diethyl ether on Sunday at a vacant site south of Carnegie Lake between Washington Road and Harrison Street.
Police from West Windsor, Borough and Township will be a part of the extensive security measures being taken. Fire-fighting apparatus will also be at the detonation site.
The five-gallon canisters were discovered last summer in the basement of Frick Chemical Laboratories where they had remained unopened for 14 years. Although university officials say the chemicals are safe as long as they are not disturbed, too much exposure to oxygen could cause the metal canisters to explode.
James Merritt, the university’s associate communications director, said that the site was chosen because it is “the closest place remote enough to do it”
West Windsor Township officials have expressed concern about the operation. Deputy Mayor Phil Gerbino at a Committee meeting last week questioned the necessity of exploding the chemicals near a residential area. Mayor Carol Beske reported that Princeton Township officials were also investigating the disposal procedure. ‘‘Our question is how safe such an explosion will be?” she said.
Special Truck to Be Used. The canisters will be loaded on a truck specially designed for the purpose around 8 Sunday morning. The loading area and entire route to the site will be blocked off from pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
The truck is expected to arrive at the site near the Hospital Fete Fields about 10. A hole about seven feet deep will be dug in a large compost heap in which the cannisters will be buried. After a small explosive charge has been detonated, a possible small fireball is expected to appear but no one is sure that there will be an actual explosion.
The university will pay all the costs incurred for the use of the truck and charges for securing the route. “We may get a bill on the order of $1,000 from the police for their supervision,” said Daivd M. Mog, assistant to the chairman of the University Chemistry Department.