A state toxic spill team, clad in protective gear and scientific equipment, gingerly probed the mysterious mound of greenish gel near an old logging road.
Already, three people had been treated at a hospital after being exposed to the goo. Authorities, who had characterized the unknown substance as "highly corrosive" and perhaps life-threatening, feared the worst.After careful analysis Tuesday, the team experts identified what they were up against: Diapers. Lots of soiled diapers.
"It was, uh, like an absorbent gel inside the disposable diaper," said Brett Manning, a member of the state Department of Ecology's spill response team. "After sitting there for several months, it took on a greenish appearance. It was actually the urine that turned this color.
"It was kind of strange," he said.
The pile was found Monday on the road near Spirit Lake Highway by two hikers. They and a deputy sheriff fell ill while examining the mess.
Jeff Wilson, president of Cowlitz Clean Sweep, the hazardous materials company called to the scene, said their precautions were justified, since a chemical canister was found nearby.
Manning said Thursday that they detected carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide gas, as well as a plaster-like substance containing calcium hydroxide, in the diapers. He said what exactly made the people sick still remains a mystery.