Cleaning chemical mix at Cheese Louise injures employee, closes Route 28 businesses
By Diane Pineiro-Zucker, Daily Freeman
Posted: 10/01/16, 2:45 PM EDT
TOWN OF KINGSTON, NY. An overzealous (and ignorant) employee hoping to do an exemplary job cleaning early Saturday at Cheese Louise on state Route 28, wound up mixing bleach and another cleanser, accidentally creating a toxic and potentially explosive stew, according to the store’s owners and the town’s fire chief.
The incident sent the unidentified employee to HealthAlliance Hospital’s Broadway Campus in Kingston, and led Sawkill Fire Department Chief Dave Hoffman to request assistance from the city of Kingston hazardous materials team and closed Route 28 westbound for about three hours.
Exercising extreme caution, co-owner Rick Regan said, he called 911 at about an hour after learning bleach and a lime scale remover had been mixed in a sink at the gourmet cheese shop at 940 state Route 28.
Hoffman said the call came in at 10:49 a.m.
Before calling for help, Regan — who said he has a chemistry background and recognized the potential for disaster — “shooed everyone out of the building, turned on the exhaust and drained the sink.”
A short time later, the employee began feeling sick and was having some difficulty breathing, co-owner Sam McDevitt said.
Both Regan and McDevitt praised the fire department for taking the health and safety of owners, employees and customers seriously. “There’s no such thing as an overreaction. They’re professionals and they’re there to protect us,” Regan said.
“They were respectful, informed and kept us in the loop. They were wonderful,” McDevitt added.
Regan said Cheese Louise is not likely to reopen until midweek, after an inspection of the store’s septic system is complete. He said none of the store’s merchandise was affected.
Hoffman said the Ulster County Department of Health will also need to give the business an all-clear.
All stores in the small plaza were evacuated by firefighters, but some reopened after the road was reopened and others closed for the afternoon, according to Mary Anne Erickson, owner of Bistro-to-Go at 948 Route 28, next door to Cheese Louise.
Erickson said all of Cheese Louise’s employees were hosed down by a hazmat team. “I was shocked. They were concerned the building could explode,” she said. Erickson reopened her business shortly after Route 28 was cleared, at about 2:05 p.m.
The incident also closed the nearby Country Deli at 932 Route 28. Employee Hannan Shaukat said his building was evacuated and another employee was told to shut off the power. Shaukat said the closure on what would have been a busy Saturday was “a big loss for everyone.”
The Wine Hutch, which is directly adjacent to Cheese Louise at 936 Route 28, remained closed Saturday afternoon, although hours posted on the door indicated the shop should have been open for business.