The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Local News

June 18, 2013

Cleanup underway on Elwood mercury cache

ELWOOD, Ind. — Cleanup began Tuesday afternoon at a garage in Elwood where a large cache of highly volatile mercury was found Monday night.

Elwood Police Chief Sam Hanna said crews could be working through part of today to clear the roughly 10 pounds of the hazardous material found inside a free-standing garage in the 2000 block of South I Street.

According to a release from the Environmental Protection Agency, mercury is a liquid metal and evaporates readily.

"It has traditionally been used to make products like thermometers, switches and some light bulbs," it said. Products that might contain mercury include antique clocks, barometers and mirrors.

Its vapor also acts as a neurotoxin, and can have dangerous effects on the central nervous system, especially in children.

Due to the health hazard, police sealed the site Monday night, and maintained a 24-hour presence.

Hanna said the EPA tested the site Tuesday morning, and found high contaminant levels in the garage, but that the property's house and nearby houses were safe. 

During the cleanup, the EPA will remove the mercury and properly dispose of it and contaminated items. Hanna said if crews cannot clean all the material from the garage, it may have to be demolished.

The cache was discovered by new homeowners, who were moving boxes into the residence at about 5 p.m. Monday. According to a release from the EPA, they accidentally spilled the material while moving the belongings of a former owner.

They called 911, and officials identified the material as mercury.

Hanna said that before the new tenants, the home may have been vacant for as many as 20 years. Now, Elwood police are trying to track down the last occupant. 

The EPA said mercury spills in homes or places of business in Indiana should be reported to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management at 888-233-7745.

Reporter Jack Molitor contributed to this report. Like Baylee Pulliam on Facebook and follow her @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter or call 648-4250.

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