Pau-Wa-Lu student found mercury at ranch
GARDNERVILLE – A boy who forced the closure of a Nevada middle school when he shared a vial of mercury with classmates told investigators he found the toxic metal at a ranch.
Douglas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Mezzetta said the youth could face charges in juvenile court if it’s determined he knowingly exposed others to a health risk.
“Our understanding is that this young man knew the substance was toxic and he was told to dispose of it, but he took it to school anyway,” Mezzetta said.
According to investigators, the boy said he found the vial at a ranch in southern Douglas County and took it home where he lives with his grandparents.
The boy’s grandfather told him the mercury was poisonous and that he could become ill if he handled or ingested it, investigators said.
In their report, investigators said the grandfather indicated he took the vial and put it outside, but the boy retrieved it. The grandfather believed the youth had disposed of it as instructed.
Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School Principal Robin Pedrett said Thursday that exams scheduled next week at the Gardnerville Ranchos middle school will be delayed a week due to clean-up from liquid mercury contamination.
The liquid mercury is the same as used in some thermometers.
The missed school days will likely be made up at the end of the school year. Pedrett said teachers at the school have not had time to write exams.
When a plan is formulated, she said it will be submitted to Douglas County School District Superintendent John Soderman for approval.
“The students need to not worry about the exams,” she said. “They will be delayed.”
Many parents and students have sought answers about the exams. One Gardnerville Ranchos parent, Christy Roney, attended a Wednesday press conference at the school, hoping to find out information on the tests.
Soderman, addressing a handful of press, school staff and parents, said that school officials will ensure students have enough time to study for exams. He said administration at the school will make the necessary adjustments. Pedrett, who sat in the classroom during the press conference, shook her head yes in agreement.
Roney’s concern was more about whether exams would be delayed than with liquid mercury contamination, although, she said, she was concerned about that too.
Roney, whose daughter attends seventh grade at the school, said she wants to ensure her daughter receives tutoring, which was scheduled in the afternoons this week, before she takes her exams.
14-year-old Stevens said he spent the remainder of the day in the library with friends. They sat around talking and watching a movie. They were going to be given food, he said, but an official came back and said that eating could possibly cause liquid mercury ingestion.