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 email the SEISS team at phs.seiss@phs.scot

SEISS newsfeed

  • Crews battle wildfire near west Highlands village

    Firefighters have been battling a moorland wildfire in hills near Kyle of Lochalsh in the west Highlands. Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) crews have been at the scene since Wednesday morning. A helicopter was being used on Thursday morning to waterbomb the fire, which was burning along a three mile (5km) front. A SFRS spokesperson said there were no reports of anyone being injured in the incident. The incidents follow a SFRS warning earlier this month of a heighted risk of wildfires due to dry and windy conditions. SFRS said it was alerted to the fire at Erbusaig, north of Kyle of Lochalsh, at about 10:20 on Wednesday.

  • Firefighters tackle huge gorse blaze in the Highlands

    Fire crews tackled a huge gorse blaze in the Highlands on Sunday evening. Emergency services were called to the scene on in Seabank Road, Invergordon at around 7.08pm. A heavy rescue unit from Inverness also attended the scene and provided additional scene lighting. Smoke could be seen for miles as the huge flames from the gorse fire filled the air. No injuries have been reported from the incident. A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “We were alerted at 7.08pm on Sunday, March 20, to reports of a wildfire affecting an area of gorse in Seabank Road, Invergordon. “Operations control immediately mobilised four fire engines, a heavy rescue unit and a community response unit to the location and firefighters extinguished the fire. “Crews left the scene after ensuring the area was made safe.”

  • Blaze breaks out in Highlands during wildfire warning

    Firefighters have been tackling a large wildfire in the Highlands. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) was alerted to the blaze on Knockfarrel Hill, between Dingwall and Strathpeffer, at 11:11. Crews have been tackling the fire on an open area of gorse on two fronts of about 600m (1,968ft) and 800m (2,625ft) long. The incident comes during an SFRS extreme warning of wildfire risk in west, north and north east Scotland. The warning has come amid dry and windy conditions and is in place until Wednesday.

  • Hotel evacuated due to mystery smell in Edinburgh

    A hotel was evacuated while investigations into a mysterious smell in Edinburgh were carried out. Two fire engines and Scottish Gas Networks (SGN) were sent to St Andrew Square at 16:15 on Saturday following reports of a suspected gas leak. However, SGN later reported that no gas leak had been found. The fire service left the scene just after 19:30 and guests were allowed to return to the hotel on the square once it was declared safe. Residents took to social media to voice their concerns, with one tweeting "Edinburgh stinking of gas", while another queried: "What's the weird smell in Edinburgh New Town?" SGN tweeted: "The environmental smell in Edinburgh is moving from EH15 to the town centre. "We're experiencing a high number of calls and our engineers are carrying out checks at various locations. "The smell in the air isn't being caused by gas, but if you have safety concerns call 0800 111 999."

  • River pollution in Musselburgh investigated by Sepa

    Work to clean up a pollution incident in the River Esk at Musselburgh is under way. On Friday a countryside ranger spotted an unusual residue that appeared to be discharging into the river. Specialist officers from Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) identified the likely source of the discharge on Saturday. This was a manhole filled with an as yet unknown material leading to a watercourse. Absorbent pillows were put in place by East Lothian Council in order to protect the river. The pollution discharge also gives off a smell which could linger for days, residents have been warned. Sepa and East Lothian Council are arranging for a contractor to remove the pollution material while its joint investigation into the cause continues.

  • Firefighters tackle blaze at car breaker yard in Denny

    More than 70 firefighters have been tackling a fire at a car breaker yard in Denny, near Falkirk. The alarm was raised at about 21:30 on Monday. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service sent 10 fire engines and seven support units to the scene in Winchester Avenue. They found a well-developed blaze in a building and worked through the night to bring it under control. Firefighters were still at the scene at 06:30 on Tuesday. There were no reports of any casualties.

  • Wildfire warning as firefighters tackle Oban blaze

    Warnings have been issued about the high risk of wildfires as firefighters tackled a a major grass fire above a West Highland town. Fire crews spent 16 hours working to extinguish the blaze above Oban which broke out on Friday afternoon. After recent dry weather, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service says there is a "high to extreme" risk of fires across north east, central and east Scotland. NatureScot urged people enjoying eased Covid restrictions to be vigilant. The fire on the hillside above Oban was reported at about 15:30 on Friday. Four fire appliances were sent, with crews from Inverary and Appin called in to help local firefighters. They used beaters and backpack extinguishers to limit the spread of the fire before nightfall. Crews returned the following morning and the fire was put out at about 07:30.

  • 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.