Firefighters Respond to Mercury Spill at Washington, D.C. School

Exactly one week after mercury was spilled in a Northwest Washington school, hazardous materials crews returned to same building Wednesday to deal with another apparent mercury spill.


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Exactly one week after mercury was spilled in a Northwest Washington school, hazardous materials crews returned to same building Wednesday to deal with another apparent mercury spill.

''We're taking measurements out from where the product is. In other words, we're going incrementally farther away to see where the most vapor is,'' said Alan Etter, spokesman for the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. He said additional tests are needed, but it appeared to be worse than last week's spill at Cardozo High School.

Approximately 800 students attend Cardozo, and Etter said some students who were on the third floor - where the apparent mercury was found - may have to be decontaminated. Those on the first and second floors were not exposed, and readings show no mercury contamination there. Authorities are still determining how many people might have been exposed.

The building was not immediately evacuated, with students and teachers being kept inside. Classes just resumed a day earlier at Cardozo, following a cleanup overseen by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Snow kept all city schools closed Monday and last Thursday, but Cardozo also lost a day on Friday, while the cleanup continued.

Two teenagers are facing charges in connection with last week's spill. Where that mercury came from remained unclear. Cardozo principal Reginald Ballard has denied reports that it was taken from within the school. Ballard insisted all mercury was removed following a 2003 spill at Ballou High School in Southeast Washington. That incident kept Ballou closed for more than a month.