Police are investigating the spreading of chlorine pool cleaner Thursday alongside a street in the vicinity of an Anchorage homeless shelter and soup kitchen.
A hazardous materials crew responded to reports of a white powdery substance on a Karluk Street sidewalk between 3rd and 4th Avenue at little before 6 p.m. Thursday, Assistant Fire Chief Erich Scheunemann said.
Dozens of Anchorage’s homeless congregate in the area, and the city had recently cleaned up tents and other items next to the street.
Ron Alleva, the owner of a nearby auction lot in a long-running dispute with the city over the concentration of homeless near his property, told the Anchorage Daily News he had spread the pool cleaner. Alleva did not respond to calls seeking comment Friday.
The hazmat crew found an empty five-gallon bucket indicating the substance was pool cleaner and guessed between 50 and 75 pounds of it had been spread around on the ground, Scheunemann said.
“It can cause skin burns. If it’s inhaled it can cause respiratory depression,” Scheunemann said. “So there is some concerns with cleaners in general. It’s just not something that you want to be exposed to.”
The Daily News reported a woman at the scene Thursday said her husband had laid down in the substance and woke up with holes burned in his jacket.
Scheunemann would not confirm that. While the hazmat crew was at the scene, he said, a man approached them asking for medical assistance and was taken to a local hospital in stable condition. Scheunemann said it was unclear if that was related to the pool cleaner and that there were no other reports of symptoms of chemical exposure.
The city hired an environmental cleaning company to remove the powder, and it took about three hours to clean up, Scheunemann said.
A police investigation is underway but no charges had been filed as of Friday, according to a spokesperson for the Anchorage Police Department.