Chemical and environmental incidents


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

  • 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."

  • Major wildfire threatens Moray wind farm

    Firefighters have worked through the night tackling a large wildfire near a wind farm in Moray. The alarm was raised just before 15:00 on Monday when flames were spotted near Paul's Hill wind farm at Knockando, south west of Elgin. About 30 firefighters are at the scene of the blaze but at its height more than 50 people were involved. The blaze covers an area of six miles by two miles. There were no reports of any casualties. The Paul's Hill wind farm, consisting of 28 turbines, is run by Fred Olsen Renewables. There was a large grass fire in the same area last weekend.

  • Grassland fire in Muirhead, North Lanarkshire

    Emergency services were called at at 8.39pm Sunday night to reports of a grassfire on the Muirhead heathland. One fire appliance was sent to the scene but subsequently another three were sent to tackle the blaze. Andy Thomson, who spotted the fire and called the fire service said: "It was pretty bad, it was spreading so fast." The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said the last appliance left at 22.09 when the fire had been fully extinguished. The cause of the fire remains unknown, but yesterday Scotland witnessed the hottest Easter Sunday on record with temperatures reaching 22C in some parts.

  • Firefighters tackle Lochaber wildfire

    Firefighters are tackling a separate wildfire affecting about 75 acres of land in Lochaber. It broke out south of Kinlochleven on Sunday and was still burning on Monday evening. The flames were being fanned by windy conditions, and four pumps were sent to the scene.

  • Major fire at an Aberdeen industrial estate

    A major north-east road has been closed after a fire broke out at an industrial estate in Aberdeen. Thick black smoke can be seen for miles as firefighters tackle the blaze on Skene Road that broke out at around 3pm on Saturday. Emergency services, including police officers and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are currently in attendance. The A944 is now closed in both directions as a result. It is closed Eastbound at its junction with B9119 and Westbound at Kingsford. Motorists are asked to take alternate routes where possible. There are no reports of any injuries at this time.

  • Blaze on a hillside at Loch Doon

    Firefighters have spent a second night tackling a large forest fire in East Ayrshire. The emergency services were alerted to the blaze on a hillside at Loch Doon at about 18:50 on Saturday. At least five miles of hillside has been affected and the public have been asked to avoid the area. East Ayrshire Council said overnight that "progress" was being made and that a welfare centre had been opened in the nearby town of Dalmellington. Fire crews have been working in the area with support from Police Scotland and Forestry Commission Scotland. They are expected to remain at the scene monitoring the site and managing hot spot areas. The cause of the outbreak is still under investigation but the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said recent dry weather has heightened the wildfire risk. A number of other fires broke out over the weekend, including one near Paul's Hill wind farm near Ballindalloch. SFRS Assistant Chief Officer Lewis Ramsay said: "Our crews across Scotland have had a challenging weekend attending numerous incidents. "Due to the outstanding collaborative working with land owners, The Forestry Commission and Police Scotland we have been able to ensure the safety of our communities. "I would like to thank the wider community for their ongoing support, the hard work of our partners, and the crews on the ground for their tireless efforts."