Residents forced from homes near Norton chemical leak

Firefighters from several departments responded to a chemical leak at Tweave in Norton, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. (David Curran)

Firefighters from several surrounding towns responded to a chemical leak or spill at a Norton manufacturer Wednesday morning.

"It could have blown up," Chief Paul Schleicher of the Norton Fire Department said of the facility.

The leak was reported at about 9:30 a.m. at Tweave on Barrows Street. The company makes stretch woven fabrics, according to its website.

There were about a half dozen workers in the building who had been hired by Tweave as part of the company's move out of town.

Workers told authorities it sounded like fireworks.

"They were in a separate part of the building and heard the snap, crackling, pop sound and went in to investigate and saw the fumes coming out of this barrel and it was like firecrackers going off -- is how they described it," Schleicher said.

A drum or drums containing a chlorinelike substance broke open. An unknown liquid spilled and became a gas.

"It was a violently reacting. It was giving off a gas initially, an actual visual gas coming out the door and everything," Schleicher said.

Crews said they used a solution to neutralize the reaction.

"There was a chlorine like smell to it, but again, we were unable to identify the product itself," David DiGregorio, who is the director of the Massachusetts Fire Services Hazmat Response Division.

No injuries were reported, but about a dozen surrounding homes were temporarily evacuated as a precaution.

Roads were blocked off around Barrows Street.

It was unsettling for Kristen Prudden and her neighbors.

"It's a little nerve-wracking," she said. "I'm glad that I'm getting my dogs, so I just want to get out of here now."

The cause of the leak remains under investigation.

The fire department said the company is in the process of moving, but the drums were apparently not being moved when the leak happened.

The company issued a statement, noting that the container in question had previously been deemed non-hazardous by a contractor.

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