Prosecute mercury-spill perpetrator
September 19, 2005
Wednesday’s mercury spill at Carson High School could have been so much worse. And it was just luck that it wasn’t.
Students got a day off Thursday after a teaspoon of mercury was spilled in the nurse’s office Wednesday morning.
Twenty-six people had to undergo a decontamination process following the spill. There could have been more like 2,600.
So far, no culprit has been named. So far, no motive given. So far, no estimate of cost to clean it up.
It took about 36 hours of work to decontaminate 10 classrooms, a hallway and the nurse’s office. Even so, carpeting in the nurse’s office will need to be replaced. Mercury vaporizes at room temperature and was spread by the school’s air system.
Whatever the cost, it should be borne by the individual who unscrewed the cap from the blood pressure cuff that contained the mercury.
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That person should suffer the same inconvenience as the 18 students and eight staff members who were quarantined until they could be guided through a decontamination process – which included a shower with soap and water in the gym locker room – by the Carson City Fire Department. Their clothing and jewelry were also confiscated for decontamination.
The process was no doubt unnerving. Mercury affects the nervous system and can lead to death from overexposure.
CHS students and staff were lucky. School was let out early Wednesday so teachers could attend a professional development session, which went on as planned in the school’s tech center. The tech center is a separate building located on the campus and shared by the high school and Western Nevada Community College. Teachers attending the session learned afterward about the spill.
The Carson City Sheriff’s Department is investigating the spill as intentional. The individual responsible should be made to pay. He or she shouldn’t be so lucky.
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