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No injuries reported in chemical spill at Oscar Mayer

No injuries reported in chemical spill at Oscar Mayer

No one was injured in a chemical spill at Oscar Mayer on Madison's north side Wednesday afternoon, according to a release from the Madison Fire Department.

The Madison Fire Department Hazardous Incident Team was dispatched to Oscar Mayer Foods at 910 Mayer Avenue just before 3 p.m. for reports of a chemical reaction, officials said.

An employee reported accidentally mixing lactic acid and sodium nitrate, according to the release. The employee moved the 35 gallon barrel of the mixture outside of the factory and called 911.

After researching the materials, crews determined the materials react when mixed together, producing heat and acid fumes, officials said.

HIT team members neutralized the reaction using soda ash while wearing protective clothing and air packs, according to the release. Firefighters also monitored the air quality during the incident.

Habitat for Humanity Seeking Families for Homes to be built in Sun Prairie, Fitchburg, Madison

Earlier this year, Habitat for Humanity of Dane County purchased 29 family unit lots in Sun Prairie and will be building homes in both the Uplands and Vandenburg Heights neighborhoods over the next several years, according to a press release.   Habitat also recently purchased 24 lots in Fitchburg in the Renaissance in the Park neighborhood and three lots in Southwest Madison.

For individuals and families interested in building with Habitat for Humanity of Dane County starting in 2015, informational meetings will be held:

Toxic algae spotted on Lake Mendota

Toxic algae spotted on Lake Mendota

Toxic algae were spotted on Lake Mendota near the University of Wisconsin campus and in Lake Waubesa, according to a release from UW officials.

Officials said cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae blooms, were spotted Tuesday in the area of Memorial Union and Hoofers.

The public is urged to avoid contact with the algae and not swim at night when the blooms can?t be seen.

The algae blooms occur when there is little wind and hot temperatures combined with lake nutrients.

Symptoms of a reaction to algae blooms include eye, throat, nose or skin irritation, and vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms can happen between several hours and a few days after being exposed.

Mosquito season off to an annoying start

Mosquito season off to an annoying start

Mosquito season is off to an annoying start in northern Wisconsin, where the problem has been so bad that one canoeing company has been turning away customers rather than sending them out on a bug-infested river.

Fortunately, though, the rest of the summer might not be so bad. A Madison entomologist said early indications suggest this season may end up being no worse than usual, and that standard precautions might be enough to keep the pesky critters away.

Some hardware stores up north have been having trouble keeping bug repellent on the shelves, and some residents said they can't remember a summer with such abundant swarms.

PJ Liesch, who studies insects at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was in northern Wisconsin over Memorial Day weekend. That Friday and Saturday were pleasantly mosquito-free, but hordes of the blood-sucking pests appeared as if out of nowhere that Sunday, he said.

City asks residents to help save the ash trees

City asks residents to help save the ash trees

At the end of March, the city's Parks Division launched an Adopt-A-Park-Tree Program intended to help save trees endangered by one of Madison's newest residents -- the emerald ash borer. The small, invasive green-colored beetles were first discovered in Madison last November. Originating from Asia, the insect's larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees and have already killed millions of trees in other parts of Wisconsin and across the country.

"It is an invasive insect and 30 percent of the trees in our streetscape and the parks are ash," said Laura Whitmore, spokeswoman for the city of Madison Parks Division.

MWU: Madison's water meets, exceeds federal, state standards

MWU: Madison's water meets, exceeds federal, state standards

Madison Water Utility officials said water quality and safety tests performed in 2013 show that Madison's water met or exceeded federal and state standards.

MWU officials released their annual Water Quality Report Monday as part of Safe Drinking Water Week, a national effort to draw attention to people who ensure cities' water is safe to drink.

"This report provides an opportunity for our customers to learn more about the water they use every day," MWU water quality manager Joe Grande said in a release.

Grande said MWU crews go above and beyond federal and state requirements when it comes to testing.

"We're doing a lot of tests, not just to meet the regulations, but to better understand our water," he said. "We take water quality seriously. We're thinking about our customers when we are planning our testing programs, and we're trying to provide the highest quality water possible."

Warm weather prompts reminders about seasonal fire hazards

Warm weather prompts reminders about seasonal fire hazards

Warm weather in the 60s arrived this week, and with it, an advisory from fire officials on outdoor fire hazards that accompany the season. 

The Madison Fire Department said ordinances do not permit burning yard waste. A fire within outdoor fireplaces or pits -- with spark arresters in use and fire extinguisher or water source nearby -- are permitted as long as it is attended by a responsible adult. 

The fire department also offered reminders on other seasonal fire hazards: