Pau-Wa-Lu honored for mercury incident |

Pau-Wa-Lu honored for mercury incident

by Jo Rafferty

About 850 Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School students and staff members were lauded by Environmental Protection Agency officials for their sensible actions following a mercury spill in January.

“When things happen, we respond quickly,” said EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt. “(The school) developed a plan. Everyone cooperated. Everyone understood. You responded in a way that makes us very, very proud.”

Leavitt handed a U.S. EPA award to student body president Ashton Sunseri, recognizing the Gardnerville Ranchos middle school students and staff for their help during the cleanup.

“Thanks to the EPA,” said Sunseri. “It is very important to our school, and we really appreciate it.”

Leavitt flew from Washington, D.C., to Reno Tuesday morning. Weather conditions postponed his landing at the Minden-Tahoe Airport and delayed the award ceremony by 45 minutes.

Other EPA representatives included Wayne Nastri, administrator for EPA’s Pacific Southwestern regional office; and Allen Biaggi, director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Biaggi’s daughter Taylor is an eighth-grader at Pau-Wa-Lu, and his daughter Whitney previously attended the school.

Biaggi said the “positives” that came from the incident were that it made everyone “more sensitive to the dangers of hazardous materials.”

“All of you learned from your experience so you can teach others,” he said.