Teacher Finds Old Chemical In HS Lab, Bomb Squad Called In

By: Stephanie Schultz/Melissa Brunner
By: Stephanie Schultz/Melissa Brunner

VALLEY FALLS, Kan. (WIBW) - Crews wrapped up investigating a chemical found in a high school that is believed to be decades old around 7:15 p.m. Thursday.

School officials tell 13 News emergency responders were called around 3:30 p.m. to Valley Falls High School. Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig told 13 News a new Chemistry teacher was taking inventory of the lab and found a container of benzoyl peroxide. Herrig said it's believed the chemical had been there since 1971, igniting concerns it could be explosive.

Benzoyl peroxide is a common active ingredient in many topical acne creams. However, information on various chemical web sites indicates the substance is highly explosive in its concentrated form. Most topical applications contain only a 5-to-10 percent strength of benzoyl peroxide.

Herrig said, given the age of the substance found, it was believed the benzoyl peroxide might have crystallized, making it more volatile. 13 News were asked to move several blocks from the scene and were told it was due to potential danger.

Herrig says Jefferson County Emergency Management was called to the school on a haz mat response. They then called in state officials, who contacted the Topeka Police bomb squad to remove and dispose of the substance. The Valley Falls Police Department and Norton and Delaware Township fire departments also are at the scene.

Superintendent of Valley Falls schools in USD 338 Loren Feldkamp said that he's glad the school has a teacher that could spot out a problem and immediately take care of it.

He said the school will take action to prevent a similar situation from happening again.

"The state, every 8 to 10 years has the opportunity to get rid of old chemicals or unused chemicals, and I think that that's probably going to happen here. We're going to make sure the chemicals aren't kept in the cabinets for that long."

Feldkamp said this couldn't have happened at a better time.

Classes do not start until next week, but freshman orientation was supposed to take place Thursday and was canceled.

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