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Chemicals in Fenway basement used in fish oil production, officials say

A Boston Police Hazmat officer looked at the back entrance of Fenway Market on Kilmarnock St. in Boston. Scott Eisen for The Boston Globe

A convenience store in the Fenway will receive at least 12 citations from Boston’s Inspectional Services Department after city officials found 220 gallons of chemicals that were intended as ingredients for fish oil, sparking the evacuation of nearby homes and businesses.

“The store owner was letting a friend use the basement to do experiments in the manufacturing of fish oil,’’ said Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald. “Investigators do not see any criminal intent. They just didn’t follow proper procedures. They used the wrong location to try to do this. And they didn’t pull permits.’’

Fenway Market, at 76 Kilmarnock St., was searched at 6:06 p.m. Tuesday after a city inspector found four 55-gallon barrels holding a suspicious substance and alerted law enforcement officials. The discovery led to the evacuation of buildings on either side of the one-story market.


When Boston police, firefighters, and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force converged on the small business, the fear among residents was that Fenway Market was home to explosives or a drug lab.

“The reaction was insane,” said Tom Morganti, 72, a resident of St. Cecilia’s House, a nearby senior living center. He said some residents were evacuated, based on a police order. “We thought it was a bomb.”

But it was all about omega-3 fatty acids and healthy fish oil.

Lisa Timberlake, with the Inspectional Services Department, said most of the citations do not address the chemicals, but covered other infractions found in the store. They include deteriorating wires, structural problems, and unclean spaces. According to violation documents, the store’s “owner/operator” is Samir Shaikh.

The barrels were filled with acetic acid, a common food industry additive, and hydrogen chloride, MacDonald said.

The Fire Department spokesman had a tour of the basement, and described the space as a disastrously cluttered storage area for a store that sells soda, milk, bread, and other routine products.


“No one knew what the heck was going on when you get into a basement like that,’’ he said.

Cleaning crews began removing the chemical barrels Wednesday at 2:30 p.m and finished about three hours later, MacDonald said. The property’s owner must gain clearance from a city health inspector to regain control of the facility.

Area businesses reopened Wednesday morning.

Astead Herndon can be reached at astead.herndon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AsteadWH. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@ globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.