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Bomb unit removes 'volatile substance' from Winnipeg hospital research centre

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The Winnipeg police bomb unit removed a 'volatile substance' from a Winnipeg hospital research centre Friday afternoon, prompting an evacuation.

The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) confirmed its bomb unit was called to the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre Friday to, "assist in removing a volatile substance."

A member of the bomb unit, clad in full protective gear, was seen walking out of the building Friday afternoon holding what appeared to be a container.

"Everything right now is under control. Everything's safe for the general public," Const. Claude Chancy, a public information officer with the WPS, told CTV News.

A member of the Winnipeg police bomb unit removes a 'volatile substance' from the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre on May, 17, 2024. (Source: Jeff Keele/CTV News Winnipeg)

The hospital confirmed this was not a bomb threat. A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority told CTV News the substance was chemical in nature, but was onsite for legitimate research uses.

"During a routine laboratory decommissioning in the Albrechtsen Research Centre, a container was found that required further investigation during an inventory of chemical products found within that lab," the hospital said in an email shared with CTV News.

"It appears upon initial investigation that the product may have been in the lab for some time and had degraded over time into a form that is considered highly volatile."

Around 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Chancy confirmed the substance had been removed and will be disposed of appropriately.

He said no injuries were reported, and the bomb unit has since cleared the scene.

Research centre and MRI facility evacuated, urgent MRIs redirected

This 'volatile substance' prompted an evacuation out of an abundance of caution, the hospital said.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority confirmed St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and the neighbouring MRI facility had to be evacuated – however the rest of the hospital was unaffected and operations are continuing as usual.

By late Friday afternoon, the hospital confirmed the research centre and MRI facility were reopened.

Winnipeg police taped off the entrance to the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre on May, 17, 2024. (Source: Jeff Keele/CTV News Winnipeg)

The WRHA told CTV News any urgent MRIs were redirected to the Health Sciences Centre Friday afternoon. The MRI services for urgent patients would resume at St. Boniface Friday evening, with regular outpatient appointments picking back up Saturday.

The WRHA and the hospital said its occupational health and safety team has processes in place to make sure hazardous chemicals are inventoried and accounted for going forward, so something like this doesn't happen again.

Police say situation similar to U of M evacuation last summer

Chancy said the situation is similar to an evacuation that happened in June 2023 at the University of Manitoba, after a small amount of chemical in a 'potentially unstable form' was found in a storage room.

Chancy said in that situation, the police bomb unit was also called in to remove the substance. 

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