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

  • Firefighters tackle blaze at Fife Zoo

    Firefighters are tackling a blaze which broke out in the roof space of a building at Fife Zoo. Fire crews, including four appliances and a specialist resource, were called to the zoo - near Collessie - at 12:11 on Sunday. A spokeswoman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said one person had been treated by paramedics for smoke inhalation. Fife Zoo confirmed on social media that all of its animals were safe. The zoo is home to a range of animals, including lemurs and zebras. It reopened on 29 June after closing in March due to the coronavirus lockdown.

  • Derelict building fire in Glasgow sparks 'horrendous bang'

    A fire has torn through a derelict building in the east end of Glasgow, causing an explosion which was heard from miles away. Emergency services were called to the scene near Duke Street at about 20:40 on Thursday. Locals reported hearing a "horrendous bang" and posted images of thick black smoke appearing across the skyline. About 30 firefighters have worked through the night tackling the blaze and six crews remain at the scene. There were no reports of any injuries and locals have been urged to keep their windows shut.

  • Fire crews tackle large blaze at Dundee industrial estate

    Firefighters have been tackling a large blaze at an industrial estate in Dundee for more than 12 hours. The alarm at Baldovie Industrial Estate on Forties Road was raised at about 20:15 on Sunday. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) sent four fire engines and other support appliances to the blaze. Some local roads were closed and police asked people to avoid the area. Nearby residents were also advised to close their windows because of the smoke. Firefighters were still at the scene at 09:00 on Monday. Police Scotland tweeted: "Police and SFRS are dealing with a fire at Baldovie Industrial Estate, Dundee. Drumgeith Road is closed between Summerfield Avenue and Berwick Drive. "Police request members of the public to avoid this area and for local residents to close their windows due to excessive smoke." A spokesperson for SFRS said: "We were alerted at 20:14 on Sunday, 7 June to reports of a fire within an industrial estate on Forties Road in Dundee. "Operations Control mobilised four fire and one height appliance to the scene and firefighters are working to extinguish the flames. "Crews will remain in attendance for some time."

  • Fire crews tackle blaze at Dumfries recycling plant

    The fire service was called to the incident in a two-storey building at Solway Recycling, Shawhead, near Dumfries, at about 16:00 on Sunday. Up to 45 crew members and nine appliances were in attendance at the fire at its peak. There were no reports of any injuries and three appliances remained on site on Monday morning for damping down. At the height of the blaze dark clouds of smoke could be seen for miles around. Solway Recycling uses waste plastic to make a host of products including agricultural equipment such as sheep pens and lambing shelters.

  • Crews tackle wildfires as weekend warning issued - West Lothian

    Fire crews are dealing with a number of wildfires across Scotland after a warning was issued for the weekend. The largest, in Eastfields, Fauldhouse, West Lothian, covers an area of 100 sq m, and was reported at 14:45. More than six hours later the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said seven pumps remained at the scene. Earlier it warned there is a "very high" risk of wildfires until Monday and urged people to "exercise extreme caution" in rural environments. Crews in the east are also dealing with a 30 sq m fire on heath land between Armadale and Bathgate.

  • Crews tackle wildfires as weekend warning issued - South Lanarkshire

    Fire crews are dealing with a number of wildfires across Scotland after a warning was issued for the weekend. In the west a blaze was reported in Coalburn, South Lanarkshire, covering 600m by 300m. Nine pumps attended the initial call and six remain at the scene on Friday night.

  • Kishorn wildfire: Helicopter water bombs blazing hillside

    helicopter has been brought in to water bomb a wildfire in the Highlands. The fire was spread across several square kilometres of land near the village of Achintraid in Wester Ross. Firefighters and six appliances have spent 11 hours tackling the blaze, which broke out on Monday afternoon on a hillside overlooking Loch Kishorn. The volunteer-run Balintore Fire Station posted video footage of the helicopter swooping low over the trees. The team said everyone got home safely, and were "ready to go again".

  • Huge fire engulfs River Tay reed beds near Errol

    Firefighters have tacked a blaze which took hold in reed beds on the River Tay between Dundee and Perth. Large plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the river bank near the village of Errol for most of the day on Monday. Police asked people to remain indoors and to keep their windows closed while the smoke travelled. It is believed the fire started at about 11:30 and quickly spread along the riverbank. A helicopter could be seen scooping water from the river and dumping it on the flames. A total of nine appliances helped tackle the fire. The Tay reed beds are an important home for wildlife, including marsh harriers, water rails and bearded tits.

  • Firefighters tackle forest and moorland blaze

    Dozens of firefighters and forestry workers have been fighting a forest and moorland blaze in Dumfries and Galloway. The fire service said it broke out on Thursday afternoon near the village of Mossdale. At its peak nine fire appliances and a helicopter were involved along with forestry and estate workers. Fire crews remained at the scene on Friday as the operation to bring it under control continued. A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said there were no reports of casualties and that fire crews were likely to remain at the scene for some time. Bill Tyre, senior harvesting manager with Scottish Woodlands, said: "The helicopter was brought in last night and he was applying water until darkness came down." He added: "We managed to get ferry pumps and hoses up to the firefighters with one of our forestry machines which was on site and being used to bring logs out. We have been doing that this morning as well."

  • Crews return to wildfire at Kilpatrick Hills reservoir

    Crews have returned to a wildfire near a reservoir in West Dunbartonshire for a second day. Firefighters were called to the scene on the Kilpatrick Hills at about 18:45 on Monday. Three trucks were originally sent out but the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said crews left at 22:30 as conditions were too dangerous. They returned at 06:00 on Tuesday. There are currently no reports of any casualties. Images emerged showing plumes of smoke billowing across the skyline hours after the fire was discovered.

  • Fire crews tackle wildland blaze in Menstrie Glen

    Fire crews from across central Scotland were called to tackle a wildland fire in Menstrie Glen. Units from Dunblane, Doune, Bridge of Allan, Stirling, and Auchterarder, supported by a command unit from Bo'ness, attended the blaze on Sunday. Crews used beaters and hosereel jets to contain and extinguish the fire. Dunblane Fire Station said its Polaris all-terrain vehicle was also used during the operation, which lasted about six hours.

  • Firefighters tackle large wildfire near Strathpeffer

    Witnesses said smoke from fire near Tarvie, close to Strathpeffer, could be seen blowing across the A835 and Loch Garve. In a separate incident, firefighters tackled a wildfire on Fyrish Hill, also in Easter Ross. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said a discarded cigarette was the suspected cause of that fire which was extinguished on Friday. It comes as the fire service warned of an "extreme" risk of wildfire for parts of Scotland this weekend and into next week. Areas most at risk include north Caithness and Sutherland, Wester Ross, west and south west Scotland. The SFRS was alerted at 13:36 to the fire near Tarvie and six appliances were sent to the scene. A spokeswoman said there were no reported casualties. She added: "Crews will remain in attendance until the area is made safe." Fire crews used beaters and water-filled knapsacks to extinguish the other blaze at Fyrish Hill, on what was described as "difficult terrain". The hill and its monument near Evanton in Easter Ross are popular with walkers. Firefighters have urged people to heed advice to exercise close to home during the coronavirus lockdown. Both wildfires broke out during a spell of dry weather, which is forecast to continue over the weekend.

  • 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.