Agape Center evacuated after workers overcome by noxious odour

The Agape Center in Cornwall, Ont. is roped off with tape after being evacuated Wednesday, June 15, 2016. Several workers were overcome by something in the air. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – Several people have been taken to hospital to be checked over after people inside the Agape Center were overcome by a noxious odour Wednesday morning.

It happened around 9 a.m. in the building on the corner of Fifth and Pitt Streets.

Agape Center Communications Officer Kendra Smith told Cornwall Newswatch about 20 workers and volunteers were in the building getting the food bank lunch and other services ready for the day.

“There was like an ammonia-type smell in there,” Smith said. “Someone noticed something wasn’t right so we got out of the building.”

Several workers were sitting on the grass near the building – at least two or three had a hacking cough as they were being assessed by paramedics.

“When we arrived on scene we could see one of the workers had been overcome by something so we sent an initial crew it to meter. They were quite confident there was something in the building,” Fire Platoon Chief Pierre Baril told Cornwall Newswatch.

“Many of the people that were overcome were complaining of irritation of the throat. As a result, a few of them were transported (to hospital) for precautionary measures,” Baril said.

Paramedics with the Cornwall/SD&G Paramedic Service treat several workers on the lawn near the Agape Center Wednesday, June 15, 2016 after some where overcome by a noxious smell in the air inside the building on Sixth Street. Some were taken to hospital as a precaution. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)
Paramedics with the Cornwall/SD&G Paramedic Service treat several workers on the lawn near the Agape Center Wednesday, June 15, 2016 after some where overcome by a noxious smell in the air inside the building on Sixth Street. Some were taken to hospital as a precaution. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

The platoon chief added they are going through the “painstaking process” of trying to figure out what the substance is through a process of elimination.

“We have a member of our Haz-Mat team on scene and we’re going through that painstaking process of trying to identify what actually was in the building,” he said.

The fire department has a specially trained Haz-Mat team – a group of firefighters – and one of those firefighters is on every platoon. They use a 4-gas meter for detecting certain gases. If there’s an acid in the air, the meter becomes useless and the department has to use special gas detection tubes to figure out what’s in the air.

Baril said many of the people that were most overcome were on the main level of the building where the kitchen and several air conditioning units and refrigerating units are located.

The Agape Center’s mechanic is on site with the fire department trying to pinpoint the problem.

Baril said the building will be closed for the day.

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