Metal spill clears medical centre

Staff and patients were evacuated after a liquid mercury spill at the Kaipara Medical Centre.

Helensville firefighters were called at around 3.40pm on Thursday.

"It seems like one of the sphygmomanometers [blood pressure meter] leaked, then was dropped from a height. It bounced off a chair and spread itself over the floor," Helensville station chief fire officer Ian Osborne says.

"Mercury has a very high toxicity rating and if someone is exposed to it the effects would manifest a few years down the track with illness."

Several people were put through decontamination but no-one needed to be treated by the St John ambulance at the scene.

"There was about 50ml that had to be collected and disposed of," Mr Osborne says. "The Hazardous Materials Unit from Auckland came and helped deal with the spill. A hazardous waste disposal company took the contaminated property away and the area had to be scrubbed down.

"Mercury is in several devices that doctors use, so a spill can happen in hospitals, but it is pretty rare," he says.

"The medical centre has good procedures and policies for that sort of thing and a mercury spill kit was ready when we arrived."

The building reopened around 5pm.

Rodney Times