The Herald Bulletin

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June 17, 2013

Large cache of mercury found in Elwood house

ELWOOD, Ind. —

 Public safety officials found a large cache of mercury, a highly hazardous element, on Monday evening.

According to Elwood Police Chief Sam Hanna, more than 20 ounces of the toxic material was found in a home in the 2000 block of South I Street, and hazardous materials teams from Madison County Emergency Management Agency were called to help clean up the site.

Hanna said this level of mercury is extremely dangerous and can be deadly, so he's taking every precaution. The site was to be sealed off and have a 24-hour police presence overnight. He asked the public to stay away from the area while crews clean up.

The reason for the large amount of mercury found in the home was a mystery. Hanna said new homeowners were moving boxes into the residence at about 5 p.m. when they noticed spills on the carpet. They called 911, and officials identified the material as mercury. About 8 ounces were found on the floor and another 15-20 ounces were found in a bucket in the home.

Hanna said he was especially concerned because the only use he can think of for that amount of mercury is as an accelerant or for bomb production. He said his department planned to investigate the previous homeowners and surrounding neighbors.

"We're starting a full investigation of it because it's a real danger," Hanna said. "It's not something you can buy on the market in this amount."

Hanna said hazardous materials teams will return this morning and hope to have the site cleaned up before noon. Elwood Fire Department also assisted.

OSHA and other world health organizations treat mercury as an occupational hazard and have established specific exposure limits. Exposure to mercury vapor can have dangerous impact on the central nervous system. 

Find Jack Molitor on Facebook and @aggiejack4 on Twitter, or call 640-4883.

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