Cleaning crews return to Forsyth School after additional air sampling finds mercury vapors

Short-term Exposure Should Not Be a Risk to Students

For more information: 573-751-1010
Volume 37-277 For Immediate Release: Aug. 22, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY, MO. -- Environmental cleanup contractors were called back out to a Taney County middle school Friday evening, after air sampling at the school indicated elevated levels of mercury vapor, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources said today.

Environmental emergency responders from the Department, along with responders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, returned to the Forsyth Middle School to conduct scheduled follow-up testing after a mercury release at the building on Tuesday forced cancellation of classes on Wednesday.

All of the affected rooms were cleaned and vented on Tuesday and Wednesday, but air sampling Friday in the room where the mercury was originally released, along with adjoining rooms, showed higher than expected levels of mercury vapors.

The cause of the increase in mercury vapor levels is not known. Contractors will clean the rooms with the elevated levels again, and response crews will ventilate the building a second time before taking additional readings.

Despite mercury vapors being at levels higher than what would be preferred over the long term, the short-term exposure from being in the classrooms on Thursday and Friday should not pose health concerns for students, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. 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.

Families with students attending Forsyth schools can check the district's website -- http://www.forsythr3.k12.mo.us -- for the status of classes on Monday.

The Department of Natural Resources' 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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