Roofing Adhesive Fumes Shut Down Air Traffic Control Center, Delay Flights

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August 24, 2017

Fumes from an adhesive being applied to a roof traveled into an air-conditioning system at the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Air Traffic Control Center in Leesburg, Virginia on July 10, prompting complaints that resulted in the shutdown of the facility and the delay of hundred of flights. The chemical fumes from rooftop repairs created a hazardous materials inspection by emergency squads, caused the evacuation of the building, and sent one woman to a local hospital as a precaution for possible exposure. This led the FAA to impose ground stops at Dulles, Reagan National, and BWI airports to limit flights in the area. The Leesburg center is the third-busiest control facility in the country, handling flights over a 165,000 square mile area covering North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Loudoun County Fire and Rescue spokeswoman Laura Rinehart called the fumes “benign but probably nasty.”

A similar incident in July 1999 caused the evacuation of the air traffic control center in Aurora, Illinois, sickening 50 controllers and reducing flights arriving at Chicago’s two major airports. In that incident, a spray sealant was applied on the roof to stop water leaks above a new control room. In that instance, a worker claimed he lost his vision while directing up to 20 airplanes on his radar screen, according to National Air Traffic Controllers Association officials.

— Washington Post, Loudon Times, Chicago Tribune