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Big Piney Mercury Spill. February 27 – March 6, 2013 Big Piney High School, Sublette County, Wyoming. Big Piney Mercury Spill. Big Piney Mercury Spill. Approximate Timeline – February 27, 2013

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Big piney mercury spill

Big Piney Mercury Spill

February 27 – March 6, 2013

Big Piney High School,

Sublette County, Wyoming


Big piney mercury spill1

Big Piney Mercury Spill


Big piney mercury spill2

Big Piney Mercury Spill

Approximate Timeline – February 27, 2013

0900One cup of elemental mercury was spilled in a storage closet between rooms 107 and 108 at Big Piney High School, at Sublette County, Wyoming. Two science teachers were involved in the spill and were contaminated with mercy.

0900-1100The teachers changed clothing and attended a pep rally at the gymnasium.


Big piney mercury spill3

Big Piney Mercury Spill

spill location


Big piney mercury spill4

Big Piney Mercury Spill

Approximate Timeline – February 27, 2013

1100Spill was reported. The school district’s business manager looked up EPA website and called the NRC. Local fire department and county emergency manager were also notified.

1130-1230OSCs Joyel Dhieux and Shun-Ping Chau spoke with school business manager and county emergency manager on the phone and offered assistance.


Big piney mercury spill5

Big Piney Mercury Spill

Approximate Timeline – February 27, 2013

1230-1300One of the teachers had mercury everywhere and needed to be decontaminated. OSCs consulted with ATSDR physician for advice and relayed information to county emergency manager.

1330OSC Chau dispatched to Big Piney.


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Approximate Timeline – February 27, 2013

1700Phone discussion with OSC Dhieux and county emergency manager. A Wyoming hazmat team from Rock Springs was expected to arrive at the high school. OSCs Dhieux and Chau stressed that without the appropriate instrument, the team should not attempt any cleanup but focus on isolating and securing the area.

2215Spoke with county emergency manager. Decided to meet the following morning at the Marbleton firehouse.


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Approximate Timeline – February 28, 2013

0800Briefed by school business manager, local health department, county emergency manager, local fire department, and school business manager at the Marbleton

0930OSC Chau and START contractor made first entry into the school with the Jerome.


Big piney mercury spill8

Big Piney Mercury Spill

spill location

high reading

on the Jerome


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Reading: 12,000 ng/m3

Four sealed doors away from the spill location, across the hall from on-site daycare.

Action levels for Mercury (indoor air concentration):

1,000 ng/m3 – residential occupancy

3,000 ng/m3 – non-residential occupancy

10,000 ng/m3 – isolate residents from exposure


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Approximate Timeline – February 28, 2013

1015OSC Chau, START and ERRS contractors made second entry into the school with both the Jerome and Lumex.

1030Lumex showed readings of over 1,000 ng/m3 immediately inside the school’s main entrance at breathing level. After consultation with school’s business manager, a decision was made to evacuate the school.


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Approximate Timeline – February 28, 2013

1100START contract and school maintenance personnel entered the upper level of the building to check the HVAC system. Readings ranged from 1200 ng/m3 to 5500 ng/m3in areas above and near the spill location.

1145OSC Chau, START and ERRS contractors broke the sealed doors and entered into the “hot” zone.


Big piney mercury spill12

Big Piney Mercury Spill

spill location


Big piney mercury spill13

Big Piney Mercury Spill

Closet where the spill occurred

Mercury concentration ranged from 21,000 ng/m3 to

over 500,000 ng/m3 at breathing level. Approximately

20 unsealed bags of materials from the closet were in

The middle of room 108.


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

spill location


Big piney mercury spill15

Big Piney Mercury Spill

Contaminated clothing off room 155,

later taken to room 108 to consolidate

all waste.


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Approximate Timeline – February 28, 2013

1700Wyoming hazmat team demobilized. Some members were to get tested for mercury exposure as the filter they used while working at the spill area was not protective against mercury.

2000Sublette County emergency management demobilized. EPA set up “command post” at the school’s cafeteria.


Big piney mercury spill17

Big Piney Mercury Spill

Clean up plan:

  • Check all previous bagged materials and separate them based on low/high value (i.e., microscope vs. screwdriver), porous/non-porous, and highly contaminated/slightly contaminated.

  • Waste with less than 500,000 ng/m3 will be sent to a landfill. Waste with over 500,000 ng/m3 will be opened with attempts to remove any visible mercury droplets, re-checked, prior to being sent to the landfill.

  • Attempts were made to decontaminate high-value items, such as microscopes, telescopes, laptops, etc.

  • Because of sensitive population (toddlers and pregnant women), after consultation with ATSDR physician OSCs decided to clean the building to residential clearance level (1,000 ng/m3 ).


Big piney mercury spill18

Big Piney Mercury Spill


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

PPE downgraded when mercury dropped

below 25,000 ng/m3.


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Outreach activities resulted in addition

mercury.

A jar of mercury next to a can of Folger’s coffee?!


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Clean up plan:

  • Heating and venting; moving air from “clean” areas to “dirty” areas to outside.

  • Mercury vapor level in the gymnasium remained high despite multiple cycles of heating and venting. OSC and START contractor mopped the entire gymnasium with mercury soap.

  • Mercury vapor level remained high in hallway. Concrete (after a section of carpet being removed) was washed twice with mercury soap. Attempts were made to remove carpet glue/mastic.

  • Continued decontaminating individual items found in closet and room 108, including a refrigerator/freezer with dead animals (for biology class).


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Clean up plan:

  • The teachers were wearing jewelry when the spill occurred and they were contaminated. EPA decided not to decontaminate the jewelry but suggested that the teachers should contact a mining assay lab for assistance to “burn” off the mercury from the gold.

  • Since students would not have access to their lockers along the hallway (in the hot zone), the school’s business manager and OSC removed all items from lockers #101 to #179. All food, food related (i.e. water bottle, coffee mugs) and personal care items (i.e. lip gloss) were discarded. Remaining items were screened and given to the school administration to be returned to the students.

  • Not to miss any tiny droplets, the floor of room 108 were scoured, vacuumed, washed, and sealed with two coats of wax.


Big piney mercury spill23

Big Piney Mercury Spill


Big piney mercury spill24

Big Piney Mercury Spill


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Timeline – Monday, March 4, 2013

The pink hatched area

continued to have elevated

levels of mercury, the rest

of the school was “clean”,

(under 150 ng/m3) and

classes were resumed in

the clean area.

The pink area was sealed

off with plastic sheeting to

keep vapors in and students

out.

EPA moved from the

cafeteria to room 116.


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Monday, March 4, 2013

Interview with Mr. Nelson to track his

movements during the two hours after

the spill.

As a result, additional section of carpet

between the yellow and orange lines was

removed. Boys’ restroom was mopped

with mercury soap.

spill location


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Monday, March 4, 2013

Interview with Ms. Crofutt to track her

movements during the two hours after

the spill.

spill location


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Ms. Crofutt’s closet where shechanged clothes after the spill.


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Ms. Crofutt’s sink where shewashed up after the spill.


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Clean up plan:

  • Three additional small containers of mercury were removed from the cabinet above the sink and dishes.

  • The P-trap was removed and replaced.

  • A cursory look at the remaining chemicals to ensure that nothing would post an immediate threat.

  • It was brought to the school’s administration’s attention and it is not a good idea to store food items with lab chemicals together.


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Big Piney Mercury Spill

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

  • At 1015, the entire school is below 300 ng/m3

  • Central HVAC system was turned back on allowed to run overnight.

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

  • At 0700, the entire school is below 200 ng/m3

  • Debriefing meeting with all stakeholders.

  • At 1000, EPA and contractors demobilized. Highly contaminated materials were sent to a facility in Pennsylvania for disposal; other materials were to be picked up by local landfill within a week.


Big piney mercury spill32

Big Piney Mercury Spill

Because of the spill, the school lost:

  • Two days of class.

  • Numerous notes, paper, homework, textbooks.

  • A large section of carpet, shelving, ceiling tiles, several microscopes, one telescope, several days of food (from cafeteria) and personal clothing.

    Sufficient to fill a 30-yard Dumpster


Big piney mercury spill33

Big Piney Mercury Spill

Lessons Learned:

  • Do not attempt clean up without proper instrumentation and PPE. (Some of the Wyoming hazmat team members were exposed).

  • Do not keep mercury around. If you must, store it in a safe area inside another non-breakable container, out of the reach of science teachers.

  • If you have a spill, call the NRC. Call early and often. We are here to help.


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