Hazmat situation at Riverside Regional Medical Center; 3 employees treated

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Three Riverside Regional Medical Center employees were treated and released after a hazardous material situation at the hospital Thursday.

Fire officials say they were called to the scene at 500 J. Clyde Morris Boulevard at 4:23 p.m. The fire department’s hazmat team responded along with firefighters.

A hospital spokesperson says after investigating, it was determined that the incident was not a chemical spill, but that a piece of faulty equipment that holds Xylene was off-gassing.

Xylene is used as a solvent, according to the National Institutes of Health. It can cause depression of the central nervous system, with symptoms including headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Exposure can occur via inhalation, ingestion, eye or skin contact.

Riverside officials initially said four employees were treated, but later confirmed only three employees were taken to the emergency room. They are doing OK now.

Fire officials say the Xylene fumes spread into work spaces next to the loading dock, which prompted people to call 911. Crews stopped the leak and ventilated areas near the loading dock.

The equipment was located in a lab in the hospital’s basement. The lab where the spill happened was evacuated. Riverside also shut down its heating and air conditioning system in part of the building to ensure the odor didn’t spread.

The fire department says there was no hazard beyond the loading dock area. Patients in other areas of the hospital were not affected.

The hospital says they have shut down the faulty piece of equipment and a mechanic will correct the problem Friday morning.

Stay with 10 On Your Side for updates on this developing story.