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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 15, 2010

Tear gas spill may lead to new venue for drills

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — Patrons of Albany Country Club suffered eye and throat irritation on July 5 from a nearby tear gas drill, which may cause the state’s Department of Corrections to find a new place to perform such drills.

The department uses the New York Army National Guard Rifle Range, on Foundry Road, to train its staff in the use of chemicals, according to Lisa Foglia, a spokeswoman for the DOC. In particular, staff members are trained to use chemical smoke, more commonly known as “tear gas.” Chemical smoke can be used by the DOC to control inmates, said Foglia.

“People were more scared and shaken up than hurt, especially because small kids using the pool were affected,” said William Aperance, the club’s general manager.

The range is owned by the state, and is used most frequently by the Army Reserve and the National Guard for small-unit training, but is also available to state, federal, and local law enforcement agencies, according to Eric Durr, a spokesman for the New York Division of Military and Naval Affairs. It was purchased by the state in 1938, and covers 241 acres used for training, including pistol and rifle ranges, Durr said.

On July 5, a non-toxic smoke test was performed at the range to determine the wind direction and atmosphere before chemical smoke was released, Foglia said. The fumes from the tear gas traveled to the Albany Country Club, on Wormer Road, and, Foglia said the direction of the wind must have changed for the smoke to travel that way.

Aperance said he received a call that children using the pool were complaining of eye and throat irritation. The smoke hit the pool area first, and then traveled across the property, said Aperance. Guests of the club moved inside, and it took several minutes for the smoke to dissipate, he said.

The Guilderland Police Department was called, and, Foglia said, officers reported to the range to inform the DOC of the situation. Guilderland Emergency Services responded to the country club to help, and Aperance said no one was seriously injured.

Aperance said that two years ago there was a similar incident, after which the country club asked the DOC to notify it before conducting chemical smoke exercises; the club had not been notified about the July 5 activity, he said.

Foglia, however, said this was the first complaint she was aware of, and the DOC used the range for chemical smoke exercises on March 5, 2009; June 11, 2009; and Oct. 29, 2009. After the July 5 incident, the DOC is reviewing its options for re-locating chemical smoke training, Foglia said.

“My understanding is that the chemical smoke training will be moved to an alternate location, and, as long as we’re in discussions with the Department of Corrections to prevent this from happening again, my members are happy,” said Aperance.

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