Suspected hazardous material closes area of hospital

NORCROSS — A situation Wednesday involving an unknown powdered substance led to a HAZMAT incident and the closure of an area outside Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville.

An officer with the Gwinnett County Police Department was responding to a call for service at the Walmart off Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Norcross and encountered a small, plastic bag of suspected drugs. The substance field tested negative for drugs, but a short time later, the officer began to feel sick and went to the hospital for evaluation.

According to a press release, the Gwinnett County Fire Department responded to Gwinnett Medical Center and treated the event as a HAZMAT incident. The officer was considered contaminated and remained outside in the ambulance bay near the emergency room as the area was treated as a “hot zone” until the threat of contamination was assessed. According to a statement from hospital spokeswoman Beth Okun, the facility followed all precautions of its HAZMAT exposure policy and supported the fire department and county police department during the incident.

The hospital re-routed traffic around the emergency department so patients and visitors remained safe. GMC’s emergency department remained open during that time and the area outside was reopened at about 2:07 p.m.

The substance in the bag was later identified as a detergent or powdered soap and the officer was evaluated and released.