Firefighters are at the scene of a chemical spill which is believed to have caused the deaths of a number of animals at a rural property near Ashburton.
Firefighters have spent the morning at the scene, on Cochranes Road about five kilometres east of Ashburton, where an unidentified chemical in a farm shed is believed to have killed six pigs and a cat this morning.
Ashburton Volunteer Fire Brigade deputy chief fire officer Graeme Baker said it was not known how long the chemical had been in the shed for, or what it was, but the granule-type substance had now been contained and a decision about where and how to dispose of it would now be made by Ministry of Health officials.
Three people who came into contact with the substance took a shower in their own home before being looked over by St John Ambulance personnel and given the all clear, and firefighters were taking every precaution, with anyone going on to the property having to wear splash gear and go through a decontamination shower when they finished.
Mr Baker said the death of the farm owner's cat this morning was the trigger which resulted in emergency services being contacted.
The Ashburton brigade was first on the scene but the New Zealand Fire Service's hazmat command vehicle was also called from Timaru to take control of the potentially serious situation.
The emergency call was made by the property's owners around 8.30am and by lunchtime the substance had been contained and firefighters were waiting on health officials to arrive from Christchurch to make the decision on how to dispose of the substance.
The substance was now in a large container and it was possible it might be taken to Christchurch for disposal.
"It's just a slow, drawn out process," Mr Baker said.
Firefighters from as far away as Timaru and Rakaia were at the scene.