Mercury cleanup nearly finished

The EPA Superfund is paying for the cleanup.
WARREN -- A U.S. EPA coordinator said cleanup of a house contaminated by mercury will likely be completed today and residents may be able to return to the house by the end of the week.
"There is no way to say for sure right now. It depends upon how the [mercury] vapors persist. We have to get the various rooms all checked, and see that there are no mercury vapors anymore," Partap C. Lall, federal EPA on-scene coordinator, said Wednesday.
Denise Lark, who resides in the house, at 339 Freeman St., N.W., called the Ohio EPA on April 13 to report that a vial of mercury had been broken in the home earlier that week.
Ohio EPA, HazMat, fire and health officials converged on the two-story, single-family house, where an Ohio EPA official measured up to 65 times the acceptable level of mercury in the air.
The fire department said the vial broke when two of Lark's children played with it. The Lark family is staying with relatives until it's safe for them to return home.
The cleanup, which began Tuesday, will likely cost between $10,000 and $20,000 and is being paid for by the U.S. EPA Superfund, Lall said. The U.S. EPA has a cleanup cost recovery procedure, but it takes into consideration a family's ability to pay, Lall said. "Right now, my priority is to eliminate this health threat," Lall added.
Before the cleanup began, two rooms with acceptable mercury levels were sealed off with plastic sheets over their doors.
Who is doing the work
The cleanup is being performed by a four-member crew from Inland Waters of Ohio, a Cleveland waste management firm. Included in the job is removal of furniture and appliances from the house, either to be decontaminated or discarded, and washing the wooden floors with a specially formulated solution.
Anything discarded will go to an approved landfill, Lall said, adding that, as of Wednesday, he wasn't sure which one.
On Wednesday, workers wearing protective suits and respirators were washing the floors as fans in upstairs windows ventilated the house. Cleanup workers found beads of mercury Wednesday on the floor in an upstairs bedroom corner, Lall said.
The family's clothing was on a large plastic sheet in the back yard, which was being used as a staging area. The clothes were placed in plastic bags in the bright sunlight, and mercury concentrations were to be measured in the bags. Contents of any contaminated bags were to be discarded.
When the cleanup is done, the home will be ventilated. Then windows will be shut and the heat turned on, and mercury levels will again be measured to determine whether the family can safely return, Lall said.
Family tested
Robert Pinti, deputy city health commissioner, said members of the Lark family went to their physician Tuesday for tests to determine whether they have harmful levels of mercury in their blood. "We're very grateful to the EPA for coming in here and helping us get rid of this problem," Pinti said.
Mercury inhaled from contaminated air causes kidney and neurological damage, Lall said. Young children show symptoms quickly, but adults are slower to develop symptoms, he added. Members of the Lark family have not exhibited any mercury poisoning symptoms, Lall said.

Subscribe Today

Sign up for our email newsletter to receive daily news.

Want more? Click here to subscribe to either the Print or Digital Editions.