Mercury cleanup continues at Pau-Wa-Lu

Douglas County investigators went to Holbrook Junction on Friday to look for mercury, but didn't find any.

Sgt. Tom Mezzetta said officers were following up on a Pau-Wa-Lu student's claim he found mercury on a ranch near the intersection of highways 395 and 208 in southern Douglas County. The school was closed Tuesday after a teacher discovered students were playing with the potentially hazardous substance.

Douglas County School Superintendent Jon Soderman said he hopes the Gardnerville Ranchos school will reopen Monday, but won't know for sure until testing is completed sometime this weekend.

"The Nevada State Health Division and the Division of Environmental Protection will make the determination," he said. "Nothing is set in concrete right now. There has been no firm determination and I'm willing to wait for it."

Soderman said sensors detecting mercury vapors in real time and over a period of time are in place at the school.

"That data goes to New Jersey and it will be sometime (this) afternoon before we learn what it says," he said. "But I don't want people waiting for the bus on Monday if the school is still closed. We'll be in touch with the media and the parents."

Soderman said the school district has received no word of any medical problems related to the mercury spill.

"We still have had no calls back regarding ill health effects," he said. "The Centers for Disease Control is interested in this and have sent staff who will do urine tests on a volunteer basis," he said.

"The priority is the kids we know were involved with the mercury. It is just an additional precaution."

As for the student involved, Soderman said he was being interviewed again on Friday about the mercury.

"I guess it depends on what he knew and when he knew it," Soderman said of how much trouble the boy faces.

Mezzetta said he has no word from juvenile probation or the Douglas County District Attorney's Office on possible charges.

Soderman said the district has not yet added up the cost of the incident, but that in the worst case it would be substantial.

"We don't know how much the insurance will cover yet," he said. "But in the worst case the gym floor needs to be replaced it could be very costly."

Soderman said the agencies and staff members involved have been working long hours to clean up the mercury.

"My hat's off to all these people working on this," he said. "They've worked late into the night."

Contact Kurt Hildebrand at or 881-1215.


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