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Repligen Contained Bulges; Toxic Chemical Leak Averted

By Jeremy Hylton
Managing Editor

A bulge in a tank of waste material in a Repligen Corp. storage facility forced the evacuation of approximately 1,500 people from office buildings near the One Kendall Square site Wednesday morning. The material was removed by the Cambridge Fire Department.

The 30-gallon plastic tank, containing cyanogen bromide, hydrogen, formic acid, and water, had expanded to one-and-a-half times its size when discovered by Repligen employees, according to Capt. Gerald R. Rearden of the Cambridge Fire Department. The tank was intended to hold byproducts of Repligen chemical production, but "something else got into the tank and caused this problem," Rearden said.

Repligen called the fire department to the scene at about 10:30 a.m., according to Ramesh Ratan, a Repligen vice president. A crew of nearly twenty firefighters responded, dousing the building with water and depressurizing the tank.

Working in encapsulated suits, ten firemen worked to depressurize the tank. They removed the chemicals without incident. The waste was disposed of by Zecco Co., a Needham-based waste disposal company.

If they had escaped the room, the chemicals posed a danger both because cyanogen bromide is poisonous and because there was a chance the hydrogen would explode. "It could [explode] at any time," Rearden said.

Workers were evacuated from neighboring office buildings and a block of Cardinal Medeiros Ave. was roped off for much of the day.

The tank was stored in "a room designed for the product with all the necessary safety guards," Rearden said. The room had several depressurized doors and was explosion-proof. It met all safety codes, Rearden said.