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2 Businesses Closed by Noxious Fumes

Employees at a bank and a restaurant in Orange are treated. Authorities seek the source of chemical.

April 03, 2001|KIMI YOSHINO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Eleven employees from two Orange businesses sought medical treatment after they inhaled noxious fumes from chemicals that had been dumped in the sewer, fire officials said.

Many more people complained of dizziness, headaches and nausea, apparently caused by a "sweet, acetony, solventy" smell that wafted into the buildings near Lewis and Metropolitan avenues, across the street from each other, said Orange Fire Department battalion chief Rey Montoya.

California Federal Bank and CKE Restaurants were evacuated Monday afternoon and later closed for the day.

"It reminded me of when you put up wallpaper," said Matt Robinson, a retail operations analyst at Cal Fed Bank. "It didn't smell like gas. I thought it was either floor wax or carpet glue."

Robinson said he smelled the odor when he entered the building Monday morning and that several employees were complaining, but the scent was not very strong on the third floor, where he works.

At CKE Restaurants, about 50 employees were sent home in the morning. When the odor persisted, the fire department and other agencies were called to investigate about 1 p.m. Authorities evacuated 65 more employees from CKE and 15 from the bank.

The Orange Fire Department, the county environmental health department and city public works were working to pinpoint the cause.

"The best we can reckon is that something was flushed down the sewer line," Montoya said.

Authorities popped the sewer cap to obtain water samples but had not identified the chemical. Employees said this is the second or third incident in recent months.

Investigators plan to backtrack through the sewer line to identify where the dumping may have occurred.

Five workers from CKE and six from the bank were treated at UCI Medical Center and St. Joseph Hospital in Orange and released.

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