Hazmat situation near UAB turns out to be corn meal on sidewalk

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A hazmat situation after unknown white powder was found on a sidewalk near UAB has resolved after officials say they discovered the substance was corn meal.

A passerby noticed the powder yesterday on a sidewalk in the 1000 block of 18th St S, then after it was still there today, they alerted officials. When the fire department arrived, they noticed the powder in a second location, and set a perimeter and asked people to avoid the area.

Fire officials say they identified the powder as corn meal, and began to clear the area just before noon. Adding to the confusion, B-Alerts, a system that distributes text and call notices to UAB students, warning people to avoid the area were still being received as late as 11:59 a.m. according to UAB student Casey Marley.

A similar incident happened in November of last year, also on a Wednesday, when officials found cornstarch in a UAB parking garage. The discovery prompted the university to shut down the parking deck, as well as several buildings nearby. A portion of 16th Street was also closed. Firefighters and hazmat crews spent about an hour on the scene before giving the all clear.

Officials said they believed that “hashers,” a group of runners who leave a trail for others to follow, left the substance back in November after they ran through the parking garage. There’s no word yet from officials on why corn meal was on the sidewalk this time.

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