MEXICO – A smelly, black, viscous liquid closed a local bank Wednesday morning, and caused the evacuation of about a half-dozen employees. The bank will reopen Thursday morning.

Emergency personnel won’t know precisely what the substance was until tests come back later this week or early next. Mexico Fire Chief Gary Wentzell said he believes it is some kind of oil-based material that had thickened and darkened over the years.

He said when employees at the Franklin Savings Bank entered the building just before 8 a.m., they noticed a hot, seemingly electrical odor coming from the back of the bank.

Wentzell and firefighter Mike Chartier responded first and found a black liquid dripping from one of the two transformers located in a walk-in safe. Mexico and Rumford fire departments were both called to the bank.

Med-Care Ambulance Service checked out the six employees. Two drove themselves to Rumford Hospital because of headaches, where they were evaluated and released. Mexico health officer, David Saphier, also responded to the site.

Branch Manager Diane Perry said having the employees examined was a precautionary measure. Customers and telephone calls were diverted to the nearby Rumford branch of the bank, Perry wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.

She also thanked the police and fire departments for responding, adding that having the departments there made things look more serious than they really were.

“These kinds of situations attract a lot of attention,” Perry wrote. “We are thankful that it was recognized by our employees and has been taken care of.”

Wentzell said after the source of the odor was identified, an electrician shut off the electricity and Environmental Projects Inc. of Auburn was called to clean up the substance. He said he also contacted the state Department of Environmental Protection and was told the amount of substance on the floor did not require their review. Wentzell said a 15-inch square of black liquid had dripped onto the floor.

The nine or 10 Rumford firefighters who responded with a fire engine were released from the scene in about two hours.

Perry said this was the first time anything of that nature had occurred at the bank.

“Everything (we did) was precautionary,” she said.


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