Irritant prompts evacuation at North Kingstown Walmart; 1 taken to hospital

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Fifteen people were evaluated and one was taken to the hospital Tuesday after customers complained of an irritant in the air at the North Kingstown Walmart.

The town’s fire department responded around 1:45 p.m. to the Ten Rod Road retailer and immediately evacuated the building, according to North Kingstown Fire Chief Scott Kettelle.

Kettelle said customers and employees reported throat irritation and coughing while in the area of the store’s pharmacy.

Investigators are working to determine the cause. Kettelle said he believed the source has been narrowed down to the HVAC system, but the exact problem is still being determined. A contractor has been called in to evaluate the unit.

Tests inside the building were negative for carbon monoxide and other dangerous gasses, according to Kettelle.

The chief said the store will remain closed until the air is determined to be safe. A spokesperson for Walmart confirmed this, saying they do not yet have a timetable on when that might occur.