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Computer Malfunction Causes Huge Cloud Of Cement Powder At Charlestown Plant

CHARLESTOWN (CBS) – There was a brief scare in Charlestown Friday when a huge cloud of cement powder was blown into the air.

Hazardous material crews were called to the LafargeHolcim facility on Terminal Street around 9 a.m. after a concrete truck was overfilled and sprayed white cement powder all over the area.

"There was a huge cloud of dust," said truck driver Gregory Brindeville. "There must have been a malfunction somewhere in the system or the spout coming down and dropped a whole bunch of material, created a lot of dust."

Three nearby buildings were evacuated as a precaution because of the potential danger that people might have inhaled the dust. When the powder is mixed with water it turns into concrete.

No one was hurt.

Malfunctioning equipment led to a concrete powder spill in Charlestown. (WBZ-TV)

"The primary hazard is an inhalation hazard and an inhalation exposure," said Deputy Fire Chief Stephen McNeil. "Most of the people that were (decontaminated) – all of them, actually – were also evaluated by Boston EMS, and none of them were experiencing any respiratory issues."

Letitia Jackson, who works at a nearby restaurant was one of those decontaminated. "You got to go strip, put your stuff in a bag, take a shower in some hot, hot water for three minutes, then you put on this lovely outfit," she said.

The company later said the incident was caused by a computer malfunction. The facility was closed Friday until a certified crew could clean up the area.

There was a bigger spill at the same Charlestown plant in 2006, when a cement delivery system became clogged, sending 3,000 pounds of cement into a nearby school bus yard.

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