SPENCER, Mass. - Several residents were taken to hospitals Wednesday with burns and rashes after the town's water supply was accidentally treated with too much corrosive lye, police said.

People in Spencer were advised not to use or touch the water until further notice, said Ed Coletta, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Residents started complaining of skin irritation and moderate burns after showering early Wednesday, police Sgt. John Agnew said. He said officials determined that a malfunction at the town's water treatment plant had released too much sodium hydroxide into the water supply.

Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, is routinely put into water to reduce acidity and limit pipe corrosion, Coletta said.

Agnew did not know the exact number of people taken for treatment, but the fire department declared a mass casualty incident.

The DEP advised residents to discard any liquids or foods that had been made with town water on Tuesday or Wednesday.

State officials were working with town officials to flush the water supply so water service could be quickly restored, Coletta said.

Spencer has about 12,000 residents and is about 10 miles west of Worcester.