Chemical and environmental incidents

Background

A chemical incident is when a chemical is accidentally or deliberately released into the environment. The incident is managed and eventually resolved according to the chemical's:

  • physical state
  • quantity
  • danger level

Chemical incidents may involve:

  • a plume of gas
  • smoke
  • fire
  • contamination of water
  • contamination of land

Each of these has their own particular challenges for those trying to control the release and cleaning up any contamination to the environment, while ensuring the safety of the population surrounding the incident.

Environmental incidents are generally large scale incidents that affect a significant area. Examples of environmental incidents include:

  • wild fires
  • volcanic ash plumes
  • flooding due to storms
  • flooding due to high volume rainfall 

These incidents will require working with a number of different organisations over a number of different geographical areas.

Our key role in a chemical or environmental incident is to provide specialist operational support and advice to stakeholders. Our scientific and medical staff provide specialised advice on the public health implications of hazardous exposures. This support is given during acute incidents and for chronic exposures that result from incidents that extend over a longer period of time.

Data and surveillance

We operate the Scottish Environmental Incident Surveillance System (SEISS) (login required) which conducts surveillance of environmental incidents, involving risk to human health, at a national level in Scotland.

The system is based on a comprehensive incident database for Scotland, combining information on the occurrence of chemical, microbiological and radiological incidents with details of the:

  • response
  • sources of information
  • lessons learned

The system enhances the local, regional and national awareness of incidents and provides a nationwide forum for distributing information to participating agencies with responsibilities for responding to chemical and environmental incidents that have the potential to impact on public health.

For further Information please email the SEISS Team.

SEISS newsfeed

  • East Dunbartonshire school evacuated over carbon monoxide leak

    A third primary school in East Dunbartonshire has been evacuated over a carbon monoxide leak. Pupils and staff temporarily left Craigdhu Primary School in Milngavie on Thursday after a new alarm picked up traces of the gas. It was later confirmed that a gas boiler was at fault. Carbon monoxide alarms have been fitted in all schools in East Dunbartsonshire after a gas leak shut Balmuildy primary in Bishopbriggs two weeks ago. The evacuation of Craigdhu primary came a day after a similar incident at Wester Cleddens primary in Bishopbriggs. Faulty boilers were also blamed for the leaks in Wester Cleddens and Balmuildy primaries. Council spokesman Thomas Glen said Craigdhu primary was evacuated after a carbon monoxide monitor in an external boiler house was activated. The fire service found that one of two gas boilers had developed a fault and it was immediately switched off. "They also confirmed that it was an isolated reading, there was no trace of the gas in the school and that the children and staff had not been at risk at any time," he added. "The boiler, which had previously been serviced in December 2019, was repaired and the heating and hot water at the school are functioning as normal." Following the gas leak at Balmuildy primary, some parents have set up a petition calling for all schools to be fitted with carbon monoxide alarms. They have said some children felt ill before the Balmuildy leak was detected, with some complaining of headaches and feeling sick.

  • Bishopbriggs primary school evacuated after carbon monoxide leak

    A second primary school in an East Dunbartonshire town has been evacuated over a carbon monoxide leak. Pupils and staff temporarily left Wester Cleddens primary school in Bishopbriggs on Wednesday after a new alarm picked up traces of the gas. The fire service later confirmed a gas boiler had been at fault. The carbon monoxide alarm was fitted after nearby Balmuildy primary was evacuated and closed for several days following a leak two weeks ago. Some Balmuildy parents said children became ill before the leak was detected. It prompted the council to fit all of its schools with alarms which detect the odourless and colourless gas known as the "silent killer". East Dunbartonshire Council said children and staff had not been at risk during the Wester Cleddens incident. Anne Davie, the council's depute chief executive of education, said the school was evacuated after an alarm in the school's boiler room was activated. The faulty gas boiler was immediately switched off. "They [fire service] confirmed that there was no trace of carbon monoxide in the school and that the children and staff had not been at risk following this isolated reading in the boiler room," Ms Davie added. "Children and staff had located to the adjacent primary school and returned to Wester Cleddens when heating and hot water were restored." The gas boiler, which is a back-up to a biomass boiler, will now be repaired. The incident comes two weeks after Balmuildy primary was evacuated and closed for several days after a carbon monoxide leak. Parents said some children had been feeling ill before the evacuation, with some complaining of headaches and feeling sick. They have now set up a petition calling for all schools to be fitted with carbon monoxide alarms. The school's gas boiler has since been decommissioned.

  • Primary school evacuated after major fire

    A primary school in the Highlands has been evacuated after a fire broke out within the building. All children and staff at Park Primary in Invergordon are safe, Highland Council said. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said the blaze was "well developed" and "large". Seven SFRS appliances and a high reach appliance were at the scene and firefighters were "working to extinguish the flames". Emergency services were alerted to the fire at about 10:00. Highland Council said all children and staff were safe and well and pupils were being cared for at Invergordon Academy while awaiting collection by parents. A council spokesman said: "The extent of damage to the primary school building and the source of the fire is not yet confirmed. "This appears to be an isolated incident and will be subject to a full fire investigation by Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. "As the extent of the damage is not yet known further details about potential temporary school accommodation will be issued to parents in due course."

  • Carbon monoxide detected at a Bishopbriggs school

    Parents fear their children were exposed to deadly carbon monoxide after pupils fell ill days before a primary school was evacuated. They say children fainted and complained of headaches and feeling sick before a teacher at Balmuildy PS in Bishopbriggs, East Dunbartonshire, detected the toxic gas with an alarm brought in from home. One mum said she was met with a scene “like something out of a horror movie” when she arrived to collect her children at the local leisure centre following an evacuation of almost 400 pupils on Thursday lunchtime. East Dunbartonshire Council would not comment on the carbon monoxide claims and said their probe was continuing. It’s understood the call made to the fire brigade was over a suspected carbon monoxide leak. A dad, who has a daughter at the school, said: “I ran down as soon as I received the alert from the school and spoke to a fireman who said it was carbon monoxide. “I then ran round to the leisure centre and lots of the children were panicked and upset. A mum added: “My daughter has come home a few times feeling unwell and complaining of a sore head and crying. "In hindsight, it can only have been connected to the school. She said most of her class were feeling the same thing.” Another mother said: “A P3 pupil fainted and chairs were lined up outside the office for kids feeling sick yesterday.” One parent said she feared the worst when she was called to pick her child up. She added: “It was chaos at the leisure centre, like a scene from a horror movie. “There were loads of kids in tears, parents panicking. My first thought was, ‘Is it coronavirus?’” A source at the school claimed children had been feeling unwell for two weeks. They added: “Over the last few days, symptoms have been getting worse and all pointing to carbon monoxide poisoning – but still the council insisted school was safe.” Police, fire crews and paramedics were called to the school just after 12pm on Thursday before about 370 pupils were moved as a “precaution”.

  • Cambuslang homes evacuated over suspected carbon monoxide leak

    More than a dozen homes and businesses in a South Lanarkshire town were evacuated on Sunday following a suspected carbon monoxide leak. The emergency services were called to The Clock bar in Cambuslang at about 18:00 after customers became unwell amid reports of a "chemical smell". A specialist unit to contain chemical spills was sent to the scene in Main Street, along with three fire engines. Thirteen properties were evacuated, including the pub and several homes. A Police Scotland spokesman said a number of people were checked over but had not suffered any lasting effects. Gas engineers from Scotland's emergency gas response network SGN attended and isolated the gas supply to the pub, before performing a safety check on the property and surrounding area. A spokesman for The Clock bar said: "The Clock had a carbon monoxide leak but it is suspected to have originated elsewhere. It has now been declared safe and has reopened. "We don't know where it came from but we have taken extra steps to make sure our customers are safe." An SGN spokesman said: "A number of nearby properties were evacuated as a precaution but have now been reoccupied after we carried out a safety check." It is understood during final checks engineers did not find any trace of carbon monoxide.

  • Fire at a chemical plant, Walkerburn

    Two people have been taken to hospital after a fire at a chemical plant in the Scottish Borders. Emergency services were called to Rathburn Chemicals in Walkerburn shortly before 07:00. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said there was a possibility that hazardous materials could be involved. Two casualties were treated at the scene and then taken to Borders General Hospital. The local primary school was also closed as a precaution. South of Scotland MSP Michelle Ballantyne said she was "saddened" to hear of the incident and said her thoughts were with those who had been injured. "Rathburn is very important to our community by providing jobs and wealth to our small village," she said. "I will be speaking to the owner to see if they need any assistance to ensure that we don't lose the valuable contribution that they play." The local primary school, which has a roll of 26 pupils, was shut as a precaution on Friday. The A72 was also closed in the area and diversions put in place, but the road has since reopened.

  • Firefighters tackle blaze at Glasgow commercial building

    About 60 firefighters are tackling a blaze at a commercial building in Glasgow. Fire crews were called to the premises in Seaward Street in the Kinning Park area of the city just after 03.30. Twelve fire appliances were sent to the scene. A huge plume of smoke could be seen from across the River Clyde. Seaward Street was closed to all traffic between Paisley Road West and the M8 eastbound off-slip to Scotland Street. A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "Police are also in attendance as the fire is likely to cause significant traffic disruption this morning."

  • Clydebank industrial unit engulfed by fire

    Firefighters have extinguished a major blaze at an industrial estate in Clydebank, close to Yoker station. Pictures posted on social media showed a large plume of smoke rising from a blazing building. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said seven fire engines were sent to the scene on Hamilton Street at about 17:44 on Wednesday. A specialist unit was also sent to the incident due to the risk that hazardous substances could be involved. There were no reports of any injuries. An SFRS spokeswoman said two appliances remained at the premises on Thursday.

  • Woodmill High School closed after 'complex' fire

    More than 80 firefighters have worked through the night to tackle a "complex" blaze at a secondary school in Fife. The fire at Woodmill High School in Dunfermline has been fought by 15 fire appliances since the alarm was raised at about 17:05 BST on Sunday. There are no reports of injuries but Fife Council said the school would be closed and pupils should stay at home. The school's head teacher Sandy McIntosh tweeted that staff were "devastated" by what had happened to the school. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has asked people to avoid the area to allow access by the emergency services. Deputy assistant chief officer Stuart Stevens, the incident commander, said: "We have worked through the night in challenging conditions to contain this fire and prevent further spread within the building. "Through effective planning, we have now surrounded the fire and we are working to extinguish the flames. "However, this remains a large and complex incident and we will remain in attendance for some time." He added: "Our advice remains that members of the public should avoid the area to allow access for emergency service vehicles. "I would like to thank our partners, the community and our firefighters for their professionalism and dedication as we work to bring this incident to a safe conclusion."

  • Children and animals in danger at Dundee beauty spot due to toxic algae

    Parents and pet owners are being warned to keep their children and animals out of the water at a beauty spot because it is toxic. Dorothy McHugh of the Friends of Clatto, said there had been higher than ever levels of green algae at the reservoir. But she said that despite this she had been shocked to see not only dogs, but children in the water. She said: “We have had green algae at the reservoir before but this year it is very extensive, worse than I have seen before. “Usually it only covers sections of the water but this year it is much more widespread over a much larger area.” She added: “I always keep my dog on a lead when it is around because I don’t want to take the risk of him going in when it’s like this. “However, despite warning signs erected by the council I have seen many people allowing their dogs to go into the water. One day I was shocked to see a couple of young children, who were there with their parents, splashing around in the water at the edge.” Dorothy said: “I would warn people to stay out of the water while it is like this. “Hopefully if the cooler weather comes in the situation will get better but right now it has been pretty bad and people should definitely stay out of the water.” She added: “This is a long-term issue and something that the friends group is keeping in mind. “This is a significant blot on a beautiful area and will need to be tackled at some stage. “ Blue green algae (BGA) blooms may appear as green or greenish-brown scum on the surface of water and can contain toxins that can be harmful for animals if ingested.

  • Fire crews tackle large blaze after Cowdenbeath industrial site explosion

    Emergency services were called to a single-storey taxi workshop in Woodend Industrial Estate in Cowdenbeath just before 08:00 on Tuesday. Police said they had no reports of any casualties. It followed eyewitness reports on social media of multiple explosions at the site. The Fire Service said the blaze had been extinguished and one fire engine remained at the scene.

  • Blue-green algae (BGA) in Elgin pond

    WATER samples have been taken from Elgin's Cooper Park pond amid fears over harmful bacteria. Moray Council was alerted to the possible presence of blue/green algae in the water by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). The authority has now taken water samples and commenced water treatment. Signs are also being put in place at the location. A spokesperson said: "While we wait for the results, we’re advising people to stay out of the water, and to prevent their dogs from drinking the water. Thank you for your co-operation."

  • Edinburgh hotel evacuated following pool chlorine leak

    An Edinburgh hotel had to be evacuated after a chlorine leak at its pool. Six people, including a child, were taken to hospital as a precaution following the "minor" incident at the Leonardo Hotel in Clermiston Road. Three other people were seen by ambulance staff. Emergency services had been called out at about 17:15. A Police Scotland spokesman said the hotel guests and staff had since been allowed back inside but the swimming pool remained out of use.

  • Fire crews tackle farm building blaze near Earlston

    Fire crews have spent the night dampening down following a major fire at a farm in the Scottish Borders. Firefighters were called to the site just north of Earlston at about 17:15 on Thursday - and at its height three buildings were alight. A total of seven crews were involved at one point and cordons were set up due to asbestos and stored chemicals being present. Nobody is reported to have been injured in the blaze.

  • Firefighters put out blaze at commercial garage in Bo'ness

    Firefighters have extinguished what was a "well-developed" blaze at a commercial garage in Bo'ness. Emergency services were called to the scene in the town's Rattray Street at about 16:30. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service sent four fire engines and a height appliance to the blaze in the single-storey building. One man was given first aid at the scene for the effects of smoke inhalation. Fire crews put out the fire and the last appliance left the scene at about 22:00. Police had said the fire was causing "large clouds of heavy smoke" and advised people to keep doors and windows closed. They also urged members of the public to avoid the area. It was the second major fire to break out in the town in the last seven days.

  • Firefighters tackle former Jordanhill College blaze

    Firefighters were called out to tackle a large blaze at the former Jordanhill College building in Glasgow. The fire broke out at the derelict building in Southbrae Drive in the west end just before 16:00 on Saturday. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said 18 firefighters were in attendance at its height. Plumes of smoke could be seen across the city. Part of the campus was being transformed into more than 400 flats at a cost of £100m. The fire service said the fire engines were expected to remain at the scene throughout Sunday to dampen down. Strathclyde University left the site in 2012, with all its educational activities at the college moving to the John Anderson Campus in the city centre. The site includes the Grade B listed David Stow building.

  • Explosion after midnight garage blaze in Fraserburgh

    An investigation is under way into the cause of a serious fire at a garage in Aberdeenshire. A number of homes were evacuated close to the scene on Fraserburgh's Mid Street as a precaution because of gas tanks within the garage, police said. Around 40 firefighters tackled the blaze after it broke out about midnight on Sunday. Footage on social media showed an explosion amidst the flames. It took nearly three hours to bring the fire under control. A spokeswoman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said no-one was injured and there were no suspicious circumstances.

  • Seven fire crews battle Moray wildfire

    Fire crews are battling a new wildfire that has destroyed heather and woodland in Moray. At its height, seven fire crews were involved in the effort to put out the blaze at Johnstripe near Dunphail, south of Forres. They were alerted at 16:13 on Thursday after fire burnt through more than 0.8 miles (2 sq km) of heath and woodland, encroaching on local roads. Four fire crews remained at the scene overnight. The fire service has warned of a heightened risk of wildfires across Scotland until Friday due to warm and dry weather. Moray has been badly affected by moorland blazes in recent weeks.

  • Crews tackle wildfire in Sutherland

    A helicopter has been used to water bomb a wildfire in north Sutherland. Firefighters have been tackling the blaze between Melvich and Strathy since Sunday morning. It has burned across about 5,000 acres (2,023 ha) of moorland and at one point affected electricity supplies to nearby properties. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has warned of a heightened risk of wildfires across Scotland until Friday due to warm and dry weather. The helicopter dropped water on the fire on Tuesday to aid firefighters who remain at the scene.

  • Seafood factory evacuated following ammonia leak

    A seafood factory in Aberdeenshire has been evacuated due to a gas leak. Emergency services were called to Macduff Shellfish in Mintlaw following the ammonia alert shortly before 6.30am on Wednesday. Almost 25 firefighters were at the scene while the factory has been evacuated. A Police Scotland spokesman said: "We are at the scene at an incident on Station Road in Mintlaw. "We got the call at 6.25am." A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said: "We have 24 firefighters at the scene. "There are no reports of any injuries."