Apr 30, 2007

Excessive Lye in City Water Sends Residents to Hospitals

Dozens of residents of Spencer, Mass., were sent to the hospital with burns and rashes after the town’s water supply was accidentally exposed to too much corrosive lye.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Ed Coletta, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, told residents not to use or touch the water until the problem was fixed.

After residents complained of skin irritation and burns after showering, officials discovered that the town’s water treatment plant had released too much sodium hydroxide in the water.

Lye is usually put into water in small doses to limit pipe corrosion and limit acidity.

About 40 residents were taken to hospitals with rashes or burns. The DEP also advised to throw away foods or liquids that may have been in contact with town water last week.

About 12 people had to go through “decontamination” treatment at St. Vincent’s hospital in Worcester, Mass.

The city of Spencer has approximately 12,000 residents.