Toxic recycling plant fire hospitalizes workers

A toxic mix-up and fire sent four workers from Gaeta Recycling Company's Paterson plant to the hospital Friday.

Fire officials say two types of toxic chemicals were being unloaded from trucks when they came into contact with each other and reacted, sparking a fire. Plant workers then tried to put out the chemical fire with water, which made the situation worse.

The workers were taken to the hospital with complaints of breathing difficulties after the incident.

Firefighters were able to get the flames under control by noon. Residents within a five-block radius were told to stay indoors and keep their windows shut during the blaze. Fire officials say the smoke contained carcinogenic materials.

The call to stay indoors was issued through a reverse 911 system, but some residents claim they weren't notified of the situation. Authorities say the system can't call blocked phones and unlisted numbers, so traditional methods were also employed to assure residents' safety.

"We used double protection here," said Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Spezial. "We used officers who went knocking door-to-door ? we also did our reverse 911 to 3,500 people."

The incident is being investigated by the Passaic County prosecutor's arson and environmental units.

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