Environmental incident – SEISS report (fire)

14 January 2020

Article: 54/207

The Scottish Environmental Incident Surveillance System (SEISS) recorded the following incident in the past week:

  • BBC news reported that two people were 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 7.00am on 10 January 2020. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) were at the scene for several hours before the fire was fully put out at 2.30pm the same day. The SFRS advised acetonitrile, a volatile solvent, and pentane, a gas, were the main chemicals involved in the incident. Inhalation of these chemicals can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and respiratory irritation. The SFRS attended with HAZMAT support unit and advised there are no on-going issues with public exposure to chemicals. There were also concerns regarding potential asbestos exposure as roofing material that was thought to contain asbestos was dispersed locally. However, professional advice was sought for the management of asbestos risks. Generally, asbestos readily disintegrates into a fine dust during fires and this is often of a lower pathogenicity than the original fibres. The use of water and foam when controlling fires also inhibits the spread of fibres. Two casualties were treated at the scene and then taken to Borders General Hospital. The local primary school was also closed as a precaution and the A72 was also closed in the area and diversions put in place. The road has since reopened.

More detailed information can be found on the SEISS website, while additional information regarding asbestos can be found on the HPS website