Mercury spill bill comes to $54,308

Mercury spill bill comes to $54,308

December 27th, 2010 by Ben Benton in News

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.