Department of Natural Resources oversees mercury cleanup at Taney County Middle School exposure levels not likely to cause health concerns for students

For more information: 573-751-1010
Volume 37-269 For Immediate Release: Aug. 19, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, -- Classes at a Taney County middle School in southwest Missouri were cancelled today as state and federal environmental responders continue to oversee the cleanup of mercury released at the school Tuesday, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Department of Natural Resources environmental emergency responders, along with emergency responders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are overseeing the cleanup of released mercury at Forsythe Middle School, Forsythe, Mo.

The mercury, which was brought to the school by a teacher, was released at approximately 10 a.m. when the plastic container in which it was kept was knocked over during class, spilling over a student's notebook and onto the floor. Air sampling revealed that students likely tracked the mercury throughout the wing of the building as they came and went from the classroom where the original spill occurred. Initial attempts by the teacher to clean up the release were ineffective.

An environmental cleanup contractor worked throughout the night cleaning the original classroom and nearly a dozen others where the mercury was tracked. Following the physical cleanup today, the building will be vented to remove remaining mercury vapors and air sampling will continue.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Taney County Health Department were also notified and have been assisting the school district with health-related questions concerning mercury.

According to the Department of Health and Senior Services' Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology, because students were only exposed to mercury vapors for one school day, it is unlikely there was enough mercury present in the effected classrooms to cause anyone to experience adverse health effects. People who are concerned about potential exposures may contact the Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology at 573-751-6102 for more information on mercury exposure or their personal physician for medical concerns. The Department's website contains more information on cleaning up mercury spills: http://www.dnr.mo.gov/env/mercury-cleanup.htm.

To report an environmental emergency, including mercury spills, please contact the Department of Natural Resources' spill line at 573-634-2436. For more information contact the Department at 800-361-4827 or 573-751-3443, or visit the department's Web page at www.dnr.mo.gov.

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