Four giant batteries installed inside the new $2.4 billion Royal Adelaide Hospital to help the facility meet the Weatherill government’s strict low-emission targets have ruptured without warning, spilling 80 litres of sulphuric acid.
The batteries are made by Century Yuasa, Australia’s oldest battery manufacturer and an affiliate of GS Yuasa Corporation, the maker of burned-out lithium-ion batteries at the centre of the worldwide grounding of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner jets in 2013.
The toxic accident in a power generator room inside the hospital, which opened in September after delays and legal disputes over building defects, saw one person exposed and decontaminated at the scene by firefighters.
The incident occurred just after 7pm on Monday, with four fire crews responding to an alarm.
Emergency services found four large wet cell batteries had ruptured.
Yesterday, the state government sought to play down the incident but an investigation had last night failed to identify the cause of the potential disaster.
A government spokesman last night confirmed the batteries were manufactured by Century Yuasa, after the consortium that manages the hospital’s facilities, Celsus, initially refused to identify the company.
The government has claimed the new Royal Adelaide has green energy credentials that mean it produces half the greenhouse gas emissions of other hospitals.
The building, which spans the equivalent of three city blocks, has a four-star green rating. A hospital spokeswoman said it was the state government’s aim to “maintain that star rating and reduce emissions wherever possible” by using the batteries to help meet “emission target arrangements”.
Deputy Opposition Leader Vickie Chapman said “it would be great if the state government focused on helping sick people at our hospitals instead of focusing on their pet issues like carbon emissions”.
“The Weatherill Labor government has not even been able to supply edible food at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital and now it has been exposed that they are focused on carbon emissions,” she told The Australian.
Central Adelaide Health Network chief executive Jenny Richter said replacement batteries had been ordered but would not be installed until the cause of the initial rupture was determined and all issues had been resolved.
The affected batteries are separate to the hospital’s back-up power system, which includes six diesel generators.
After repeated delays, the hospital opened on September 4, 17 months late and $640 million over budget.
In 2015, it was ranked third on the world’s most expensive buildings list, compiled by data company Emporis.
The acid spill comes weeks after it was revealed the hospital had to employ people to hold some doors open for orderlies because of a design defect.
“It’s a very large and complex building, and as with any of these big and complex buildings, it does take a little while to settle in and to iron out the inter-relationships between various components of the operational side of the hospital, which we’re doing progressively,” Ms Richter told ABC radio yesterday.
“I’m sure over the next few months we’ll see a diminution of some of the issues that we’ve been dealing with.”