Police and fire units responded to a call for a "Hazardous Materials Incident" shortly before 5 p.m. today and are still on the scene with Hazmat crews and other emergency personnel. Officials expect to be working on the scene into the early morning hours.
The original call came from a West Norriton License & Inspection official who arrived at the home at 134 Burnside Ave. sometime after 4 p.m. to deliver a sewage bill. The L&I officer reportedly smelled a strong chemical odor coming from the rear of the house and called West Norristown police to investigate.
Once on the scene, police located a number of unlabeled containers behind the house that appeared to contain chemicals. Police alerted the West Norriton Fire Department and Hazmat crews of the situation.
Fire officials have dismissed rumors circulating through the neighborhood that the chemicals are part of a meth lab operation.
The homes on either side of the residence have been evacuated and residents are being kept back to the surrounding streets. Burnside Avenue is closed to traffic.
The owner of the home, listed as Benjamin Ayi, is reportedly out of the country and unable to be reached. According to Ayi's son, Ish, Ayi is a chemist with his own business. There is a business listing for a "Benjamin Ayi T A Chemical Separations" in Phoenixville.
Ish has been staying at the address while his father is traveling, and while he cannot identify the chemicals being stored at his home, he expressed his frustration at reports of dangerous chemicals or a meth lab operation.
"I heard people were saying 'meth lab,' said the younger Ayi. "There's no meth lab."
"My dad is a chemist," said Ayi. "All that stuff is safe. I've lived there. It's not affecting anyone. I don't know what everyone's talking about, like, they had to evacuate Burnside ... There's no need for that. All that stuff is safely contained ... It's not leaking anywhere. I don't know what all the fuss is about. It's nothing dangerous."
Crews in Hazmat suits entered the house sometime around 10 p.m. and apparently began removing substances in blue-colored safety barrels.
Emergency personnel are expected to remain on the scene until the area is declared clear.