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Explosive acid prompts evacuations in Salt Lake City

Published December 18, 2013 5:49 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A highly explosive acid discovered at a Salt Lake City home Wednesday morning prompted evacuations and road closures, but was safely disposed of about two and a half hours later.

The homeowner alerted emergency responders about his bottle of picric acid about 11 a.m. at 2074 E. Sunnyside Avenue (850 South), according to Salt Lake City Fire spokesman Jasen Asay. The highly volatile acid is primary used in explosives, Asay said. Initial reports indicated the bottle of acid was 50 years old. It appears the more dried-out the acid is, the more volatile it becomes.

Asay said bomb squad and hazmat crews were deployed, assessed the situation and called for more resources.

Authorities intentionally burned up the acid in the home's backyard about 1:30 p.m.

Salt Lake City homeowner Gary Cottam reportedly bought the acid as a teenager becausehe heard it might work as a cure for his diseased tropical fish. He thought the container — a one ounce bottle — looked neat and put it on a shelf, where it sat for the past 50 years. More recently, he tried selling it on eBay.

However, when he was told the acid is explosive, he cancelled the auction and called police on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Cottan moved the bottle of acid into the snow in his yard and covered it with a piece of cardboard to keep the sun off it.

Cottan said later Wednesday he was "more than a little apprehensive" about moving the acid, but also noted that it had fallen on the ground a few times before.

Salt Lake City police evacuated several homes that were within about 900 yards of the house in question. Also, Foothill Drive was closed at Sunnyside Avenue until the situation was resolved.

jdalrymple@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jimmycdii