A Niagara County sheriff's deputy was treated in Mount St. Mary's Hospital Friday after inhaling some fumes from a leaking 55-gallon drum labeled "50 percent sodium hydroxide" found on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation.
Deputy Troy Livesay, who suffered burning sensations in his throat and nostrils, was released after treatment for toxic irritation at the hospital, sheriff's Capt. Anthony Berak said.
"We took him there as a precautionary measure. They kept him under observation for an hour and let him go," Berak said.
"The doctor said I'll be OK," Livesay said.
The incident occurred at 12:40 p.m. after Livesay was dispatched to Green Road, a quarter-mile south of Upper Mountain Road, where four 55-gallon drums were found lying along the roadside, State Police Zone 1 Sgt. Peter Rougeux said.
"Lynette Printup of the Tuscarora Nation's Environmental Council called us when someone reported finding the drums on the roadside," Berak said.
Three drums were sealed and unlabeled. Two contained a solid substance; two contained liquids. Only the leaking drum was marked and contained an acid-like irritant, Berak said. He said the label read "50 percent sodium hydroxide."
Livesay said leaking liquid appeared to have remained close to the drums and possibly mixed with some rainwater that puddled there. He said it did not appear to have seeped away from the immediate area.
"It was all contained within a one-foot area by the drums," he said.
Because Livesay was affected, Berak said a crew from E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., of Buffalo Avenue, Niagara Falls, voluntarily came to the scene to test the leaking barrel and found it contained an acid-like substance.
Also at the scene were members of the Lewiston Town Hazardous Materials Team headed up by Art Gasse; fire personnel from the Lewiston No. 2 and Upper Mountain fire companies; David Drust, the assistant public health engineer from the county Health Department; Sal Colandra from the state Department of Environmental Conservation; Darin Mutleston of the federal Environmental Protection Agency; county Sheriff Thomas A. Beilein and District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III, along with state police, Berak said.
The DEC called in Op-Tech Environmental Services, Town of Tonawanda, to conduct a cleanup and remove the drums to an undisclosed secure area where their contents can be tested and then appropriately disposed of, Livesay said.
Livesay said Op-Tech placed the drums in larger drums before removing them from the area and was bringing in a truck with apparatus to vacuum up the water and liquid chemical that puddled around the drums. The cleanup was expected to be completed by 9 p.m.
Tuscarora Chief Kenneth Patterson gave authorities permission to enter the reservation and conduct the cleanup.
The incident is under investigation, Berak said.
He said Beilein and Murphy were present because "they are looking at this as an environmental crime."
He said the drums' contents still have to be tested before law enforcement officials can determine what should be done.