South Lake Union fast becoming center for hazardous materials

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by LINDA BRILL / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 29, 2012 at 7:40 PM

One of Seattle's fastest growing neighborhoods is quickly becoming a center for hazardous materials.

With new bio-tech and science labs popping up in South Lake Union, the City of Seattle is drafting new rules to deal with the potential hazards.

South Lake Union has become a hub for science research.  With the rapid increase in science labs comes more hazardous materials. Methanol, formaldehyde, chloroform, and ethanol are standard chemicals used in laboratories and are present in the new South Lake Union labs.

An association of South Lake Union research companies has asked the city to change building and fire codes to accommodate more labs in the neighborhood. With limited space, they want to build new laboratories on upper floors.

"You gotta go up," said Mark Murray with University of Washington Environmental Health and Safety. "There isn't a lot of land left, so going up is the answer."

But current fire code restricts the amount of flammable, hazardous materials on upper floors. 

"Logistically, it's harder to get our equipment to the upper floors," said Seattle Assistant Fire Chief John Nelsen.

Changes in building and fire codes are being developed so more highrise labs can be built.

The new rules will allow the use and storage of more hazardous materials on upper floors, but with much stricter fire protections.

Nelsen says two to four times more sprinkler power will be required. 

"We're going to allow more product, so we're going to require more sprinklers," he said.

The proposed new fire code won't cover biological waste, which is removed from South Lake Union labs by private companies.

So, as South Lake Union continues to grow up, so do the fire precautions for the neighborhood.

The new fire code rules may be adopted in spring. They will apply to all new laboratories built in the city.
 
 

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