Chemical spill leads to evacuation, lockdown

Police cordon off Chaucer St in Milton after a chemical spill. Photos: Jack Conroy
Police cordon off Chaucer St in Milton after a chemical spill. Photos: Jack Conroy
A primary school was in "lockdown" and residents were evacuated in Milton yesterday following a chemical spill.

Emergency services were called to Chaucer St, between the intersections of Abercrombie and Shakespeare Sts, just after 9.30am after the Clutha District Council reported a 25-litre drum was leaking.

It was identified by emergency services as chloropicrin, a substance once used as a chemical weapon in World War 1.

A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesman confirmed five fire appliances, a command unit and a hazardous material unit were on site.

"The nearby school is in lockdown".

"Police have evacuated residents down-wind to the rugby club and we [Fenz] are decontaminating the site with detergent."

A resident, who did not want to be named, said the chemical might have belonged to the man, now deceased, who previously lived at the property. He believed the man "most likely" used chloropicrin to help the maintenance of his collection of orchids and other plants in a glasshouse on the site.

It is understood the new owner of the site alerted emergency services when they discovered the leaking drum.

A Fenz spokesman confirmed chloropicrin was commonly employed as a pesticide, for fumigation.

Residents were allowed to return to their properties yesterday afternoon after a 300m exclusion zone had been imposed earlier in the day. Pupils at St Mary’s School, which was earlier placed in lockdown, were later allowed back outside.

In a social media post, the Clutha District Council said police had evacuated houses in the vicinity and the council had opened the Toko Rugby Club at the AMP showgrounds in Milton for affected residents to use.

Fenz said no-one was injured during the incident.

- Jack Conroy

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