published Monday, December 27th, 2010

Mercury spill bill comes to $54,308

Cleanup of the October mercury spill at LaFayette High School cost Walker County Schools $54,308.

CleanHarbors Environmental Services was hired after school officials found the toxic substance had been taken from a school science lab, officials said.

On Nov. 11, officials found "mercury beads" in an unattached mobile classroom and reported the discovery to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Mercury was found in three classrooms and on the shoes of three people, according to the EPA.

An EPA report released Nov. 18 stated that traces of mercury were found at the school and at a home on McLemore Street in LaFayette. The report stated that only one of the five homes screened by EPA officials "exceeded residential limits."

The mercury passed among three or four students over several days and was carried from school to their homes. School officials used zinc and sulfur compounds to clean up the spill, reports state.

Most of the cleanup work was done over the Thanksgiving break.


Mercury is a hazardous substance that can cause brain, kidney and lung damage in humans and may harm developing fetuses, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Walker County Board of Education members approved the cleanup bill at their Dec. 1 meeting.

Board member Jim Smith said he didn't believe the school system would seek restitution. The important issue, he said, was to make sure the school was cleaned up and to learn from the experience.

He said educators must "think about where the hazards are and protect the students from themselves."

"There's a lot of ordinary materials that, if they're not handled right, they're dangerous," he said.

Local Health Department officials said there have been no further reports of people showing high levels of mercury exposure.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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mrsmusic said...

The school system certainly SHOULD seek restitution! The stupid punks who broke school rules and the law should pay for this, NOT the taxpayers! Even if they can't afford to pay all of it, at least make them start working it off by doing janitorial jobs at the school for no pay!

December 27, 2010 at 10:41 a.m.
GARRS said...

Ah a cleanup bill that was about 50 dollars worth of materials, and about 500 dollars of labor = WHAT? Probably a half million?

December 27, 2010 at 1:42 p.m.
msnicola21 said...

I appreciate how whenever something happens at LHS (i.e. mercury spill, bomb scare, etc.) I have to hear about it from my son or in the paper. Never have received anything official and curious whether all the students in the school were tested. The kids involved should be punished. That money could have gone to other things.

December 27, 2010 at 7:17 p.m.
northchatt73 said...

Most of you are missing the point. If the students involved are punished in any meaningful way, the status of Lafayette High School could be harmed under the federal education guidelines. Each and every student counts for testing purposes and we do not want a little thing like student safety to get in the way of student testing.

December 27, 2010 at 10:03 p.m.
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