Mercury spill to cost school district about $20,000

Carson High School's liquid mercury cleanup promises to be much cheaper than the process 22 months ago at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School in Douglas County.

Some six milliliters spilled onto the floor at the nurses' office at Carson High School on Sept. 14, causing the high school to be closed the rest of that day and the next for cleaning of two hallways, four classrooms and the nurse's office. The mercury came from a blood-pressure machine.

Pau-Wa-Lu's mercury spill was more extensive because a student carried around a quarter-cup vial of the substance for about two hours before he was stopped. Costs were more than $100,000.

A quarter-cup is approximately 59 milliliters. The mercury at Carson High School measured about 1/40th of a cup.

Mike Mitchell, director of operations for the Carson City School District, estimates cleanup at Carson High to be about $20,000. He will present information to the school board at its meeting scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. today in the Sierra Room of the Carson City Community Center, 851 E. William St.

"I think it's going to total pretty close to that when we're said and done," he said. "I'm waiting for the final cost from the cleanup company on what their charges were.

"We had to incur some costs associated with re-carpeting. It's not put in yet. We're waiting for some painting to be finished. We didn't have to repaint as part of the mercury spill, but we're taking the opportunity to spruce it up."

Eighteen students and eight staff members who were in the nurse's office the Wednesday the mercury was discovered went through a decontamination process of soap and water in the gym. The school re-opened Sept. 16.

"As far as cleaning up the mercury spill, that's all been completed," Mitchell said.

He is hoping to present information on the Carson City Sheriff's Department investigation in the incident. A screw-on cap was missing from the container that held the liquid mercury in the blood pressure machine, and the sheriff's department believes the spill was intentional.

The 26 people de-contaminated were all to be interviewed by investigators.

-- Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at or 881-1219.

Carson City School District board meeting

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Sierra Room of the Carson City Community Center, 851 E. William St.


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