State confirms tear gas fired in Moreau neighborhood after training in closed prison


MOREAU – On Monday evening, a couple on Old Saratoga Road thought their house was on fire.

A cloud of smoke that smelled of burnt wires surrounded their house. The fog stung their eyes, noses and throats and it was difficult for them to breathe.

But as the woman of the house, who wanted to remain anonymous, said on Tuesday afternoon, it was not smoke coming from her house, it was a plume of noxious fumes pouring out of Mount McGregor.

“I called 911,” said the woman, who lives just below the now closed Mount McGregor Correctional Facility. “It was explosive.… I had burns in my eyes, in my throat. It took my breath away. It was bad.”

She said her property and several neighboring homes were engulfed.

“It covered acres and acres,” she said. “I know they do training for correctional officers. I was told they were doing tear gas. That’s what I think it was.”

The Ministry of Corrections and Community Supervision confirmed on Tuesday morning that it was chlorobenzylidene malononitrile or tear gas, commonly used for crowd control, which was released during a training exercise at the prison put back burner.

Tear gas can cause tears in the eyes, runny nose, burns in the mouth, and other irritation.

“I’m so glad my grandchildren aren’t here,” she said. “I can’t imagine what it did to the animals. It makes me tremble.”

Local fire departments, run by the South Glens Falls Fire Company, responded to her call, wearing gas masks, she said.

Meanwhile, the Saratoga County Emergency Management Office urged people Monday night to “take shelter in place” in the area near Old Saratoga Road. The recommendation was lifted two hours after being made shortly before 10 p.m.

A DOCCS spokesperson confirmed that the agency had organized a training exercise in the old prison, “in order to be properly prepared for possible emergencies.”

“It appears that the smell of the chemical agents was picked up by the wind and the resident smelled remnants of the deployed chemical agents,” DOCCS said in a written statement.

Another neighbor, who also wished to remain anonymous, said a firefighter told him it was tear gas. The Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office told him it was an accident and there would be an investigation.

“We were told there was nothing to worry about,” he said. “But we are worried. We don’t want this to happen again, to be at peace.”

A third neighbor on the road said he also saw smoke and helicopters swarmed the area for hours on Monday evening.

DOCCS said it informed state police of the training exercise before it was carried out. However, Moreau’s supervisor, Todd Kusnierz, said the city was not notified prior to the training. Still, he said Saratoga County and Momentive Performance Material had deployed hazardous materials crews to the scene.

Carl Zeilman, commissioner for the Saratoga County Emergency Services Office, said an alert had been sent to residents via landlines, emails and texts telling people to take shelter in place. A second alert went out to tell them it was clear.

Some residents said they had not received an alert. Zeilman said those without landlines should sign up for alerts on the Saratoga County website.

The woman who called 911 said she believed the area was under chemical attack.

“It was scary,” she said. “I never want to experience it again.”

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